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Al Ahli Holding Group boosts entertainment offerings

CEO Mohammed Khammas speaks on being the first global company ever to unveil a collectible at the red carpet.

By Rohma Sadaqat

Published: Sat 13 Jun 2015, 11:36 PM

Last updated: Wed 8 Jul 2015, 3:17 PM

Dubai: Fans of anything and everything related to pop culture in the UAE will soon have a lot to talk about as Al Ahli Holding Group, or AAHG, a multi-diversified international conglomerate, rolls out its plan to boost its entertainment offerings.

Fresh from the Hollywood premiere of Marvel and Disney’s Avengers: Age of Ultron in Los Angeles, AAHG chief executive officer Mohammed Khammas spoke to Khaleej Times about being the first global company ever to unveil a collectible at the red carpet, and the recent launch of its new subsidiary, Al Ahli Publishing and Distribution.

“The premiere was one of several that we were involved in over the past, but this one was the first one where we had a commercial presence,” said Khammas. “We wanted to draw attention to one of our latest subsidiaries which is Comicave Studios, the designing arm of Comicave Retail. We couldn’t find a better platform than the actual premiere. Not only is it a fun environment, but it was also a great platform for exposure.”

Khammas also explained that the reason why the company had chosen to unveil its collectibles at the premiere was because no one had ever done it in the past. “It was a challenge since it took us about four months to get the products created from scratch to ready for the red carpet. In the end, it all paid off,” he remarked.

The collectibles in question included Iron Man figures from the Super Alloy collection and a Hulkbuster that stands at almost four feet tall. “The Hulkbuster is the crown jewel of our collection and it got the most attention at the premiere and globally,” said Khammas.

Highlighting the company’s various alliances and partnerships, Khammas said: “We have had an alliance with Marvel since 2006, from the first Iron Man movie. It’s been a great relationship with both Disney and Marvel; they respect good partners and genuine interest in their intellectual property. But, most of all, they respect new ideas, so when we approach them with an idea that is challenging, they don’t shy away from giving the rights to people like ourselves, and we have had an extensive relationship with them.”

Asked if the interest in collectibles spikes during the release of a new film, Khammas admitted that it is indeed a very seasonal business. “However, we cover a wide array of intellectual properties. We have Comicave Retail which is a body of its own, and we have Comicave Studios, which is responsible for production in Singapore,” he revealed. “We have a great bunch of artists, mechanical designers, and engineers who are working in our Singapore office and in our Burbank office in Los Angeles. Between the two, we bounce a lot of creative ideas,” he added.

AAHG also had a presence at Comic Con earlier this year, with its Comicave store operating one of the largest booths at the event. “With Comicave we have stumbled on something extremely unique in that we have been validated by pretty much all of the publishers and all of the studios. We have recreated the comic book store experience from scratch, and there is no store in the world today that mimics what we have created in the UAE,” said Khammas. “We are literally the largest syndicated store in the world today, as far as relationships with licensees in the pop culture environment is concerned.”

Speaking on the launch of the group’s latest subsidiary, Al Ahli Publishing and Distribution, Khammas noted that the project was a very challenging endeavor to undertake. Print, he explained, has in many ways been facing extinction with the popularity of digital media.

“We want to make sure that we are still involved in the pop culture business, and we want to introduce the Arab language back again to the kids,” he explained. “Our rights allow us to produce the comic books in three languages — Arabic; English, for the first time outside of the US; and Persian. Parents and schools have loved the initiative, because they don’t need to force the kids to read anymore.”

Amongst the popular comic book titles, the company has begun publishing and distributing titles of Marvel’s Iron Man, Spider-Man, Hulk, Thor and The Avengers. The company also has strategic tie-ups with other leading studios DC Comics and Sanrio which would include publishing of comic books, magazines and activity books.


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