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Dubai Studio City (DSC) is the cornerstone of an ambitious plan to place the emirate at centre stage of the Middle East's film industry and beyond. The immense project includes sound stages, back lots, pre and post-production facilities, massive water tanks to allow for the shooting of scenes afloat, and special effects workshops. There will also be office space, accommodation, equipment rental, transport, casting agencies and all the side industries associated with film-making.

DSC is part of the wider Dubai Media City, which incorporates facilities for the television, music film and broadcast industries. It has fast become the centre of the region's media industry, with more than 900 companies from 45 countries setting up shop.

The DSC project is being carried out by TECOM Investments, a part of the Dubai Holding group, responsible for a number of emirate's largest developments including the Dubai Internet City, designed to be the hub of the regions hi tech industry.

In mid-December 2006, DSC management announced that work was about to start on two adjoining state of the art sound stages, both of 2300 sq metres, which can be opened up to form a single stage. The two studios will be ready for productions by the first quarter of next year, with a 1380 sq metres sound stage up and running before the end of this year.

The stages are part of the first phase of DSC's development, with a back lot, warehouses, workshops, and commercial and support offices also being constructed at the same time.

Ultimately, DSC will have 14 sound stages, allowing for numerous simultaneous productions, with the whole facility covering some 2m sq metres.

According to Amina al-Rustamani, TECOM Investments' executive director of media, they will form the backbone of DSC.

"DSC's sound stage complex forms part of an infrastructure that is one of the critical building blocks for a vibrant film and television industry in Dubai," he told the press in December 2006. "By combining it with support services, commercial, residential and educational facilities, Dubai Studio City will provide a unique one-stop-shop offering for film and broadcast companies."

Another facet of the project, one inline with government objectives, is that DSC will create job opportunities for Dubai nationals. Not surprisingly, there are also training centres for various professions in the film industry pencilled in to be a part of the city, allowing Dubai to grow its own movie makers as well as hosting those from overseas.

First launched in early 2005 as little more than a concept, DSC is rapidly becoming a reality and is already attracting some of the leading lights in the region's film production industry.

One of the latest to jump on board the DSC bandwagon was the Egyptian company Final Cut Film Production FZ, which announced in late January that it would build a $270,000 production facility, including a sound studio, that will have cameras rolling in 2008.

Another to buy into the project was Al Aqariya Group, which focuses on real estate-based media. Al Aqariya last year said it would locate its headquarters at DSC and construct a multi functional facility that would include television studios, media centre and commercial space, with a total budget of $135m.

Overall, during 2006 more than 25 companies from Egypt, Lebanon, India and the US took out licenses to join DSC, with others apparently keen to follow.

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