Lola Arabia, the United Arab Emirates label of Oscar-winning Spanish producer Andrés Vicente Gómez (“Belle Epoque”), has struck a 12-movie co-production deal with Dubai-based Charisma Group.
The alliance will take in a range of titles, from $2 million-budgeted contemporary comedies to banner productions budgeted at $40 million, revolving around contemporary and historic stories of West Asia.
The partners aim to produce an average of four films a year, said Charisma Group co-president Ayham Al Ziyoud.
Development has begun on the whole slate. “Although in principle we plan projects with modest budgets, these will be increased in the following year once we find the rights partners outside the Gulf States,” Gómez said.
The movies are created, developed and produced with the Saudi and broader regional audience in mind. “The language is Arabic and the stories, topics and treatments are rooted in our region. When the story requires it, we will also feature international cast that will speak in English,” Al Ziyoud added.
That said, he went on, “Our aim is to take stories from the region to the world. We have a lot of original stories that can travel and resonate with international audiences, in the same way that Aladdin became a global phenomenon.”
A top Arab world movie-TV powerhouse delivering some 1,500 hours of content a year to Arab TV operators, Charisma produced “Touq,” the first Bedouin fantasy drama series, and “Manahi,” the first Saudi movie to be shown in public in that country.
An end to the ban on Saudi Arabia cinemas in 2018, plus resolute state and key corporation backing for titles and events, has fired up the Gulf States as the fastest-growing movie market in the world in both production and market terms.
“The reopening of Saudi cinemas led to a dramatic change within the local production industry, one that we intend to accompany through the offering of movies with high production value and locally relevant stories,” brother Ayman Al Ziyoud, also Charisma Group president, told Variety.
“We are excited to partner with Andrés Vicente Gómez on such a game changing offering,” he added.
Quality storytelling and scripting are a few of the pain points that are hindering the growth of drama and movie production in the region, said Ayham Al Ziyoud. Given that, the Charisma Group is focusing on developing high quality script writing through a number of initiatives, including the transfer of know-how from Hollywood and British writers. A member of the WGA, it is working on two drama series with Hollywood scribes along with a movie, currently in development, with British writers.
The Lola-Charisma alliance comes as Gómez readies the cinema theater bow in seven Gulf States of “Champions,” an Arabic-language remake of Javier Fesser’s Spanish BO smash hit, produced with Al Maha, the Saudi production house of the family of Turki Al Faisal, son of King Faisal. The film, about a soccer team whose players have intellectual disabilities, will be distributed by Vox Distribution, owner of the biggest cinema theater chain in the Gulf States.
Lola Arabia is an Emirati company fully controlled by Spain’s Lola Films Group. Main Lola financing for the projects will come out of the Gulf Sates, said Gómez.