How does the idea of an open-air movie on the world's largest-ever mobile screen grab you? For Dh50 a film, it's a steal! For details, read on
IMAGINE WATCHING the latest flick with the starlit sky above with the opulent Emirates Palace and Madinat Jumeirah as the backdrop. And if it comes with a 4,000-square feet, six-storey-high monster screen enhanced by 32-speaker digital surround sound system, the word to describe the experience to borrow from teen lingo would be awesome!
A nearly 2,000-capacity theatre with food stalls specially designed children's entertainment area and two special family movie days, the atmosphere promises to be festive.
Swiss OpenAir, a patented concept of film viewing that travels around the world will be bringing the cinematic experience to our shores. Called the Hydra Open Air Cinema UAE 2008, the 24-night extravaganza is spread across 12 days each in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Frazin Samadian, Managing Partner Swiss OpenAir Concept AG fills in the details.
The unique event is scheduled to take place from November 4 to 15 at Madinat Jumeirah Dubai, and from November 25 to December 6 at the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi, where the event will fall within the UAE National Day, he says.
Swiss OpenAir Concept, based in Switzerland has the largest-ever patented mobile hydraulic screen technology. The company invented the technique in 1989. The first movie screening was in Zurich, against a picturesque lake. It was a huge success. It then spread to Basel, Berne and later exported to Germany, South Korea, Australia, Brazil and Portugal. Since then, we travel around the world showing the latest movies. As I said, we now have 17 locations where it has become an annual event. You could call it a ritual, as movie aficionados wait for the screening. And now Abu Dhabi and Dubai have been added to the list and will be the 18th location. Here too it will become a yearly film festival.
Something like a travelling circus company, this too travels with the entire paraphernalia of screen, the sound system and projectors, pitches its tent, builds temporary stadium-like seats, screens movies and packs up and leaves for the next destination. The paraphernalia in question comes packed in eight containers.
We also bring the engineering team with us, as it's a highly specialised technology. We are bringing here six technicians and a movie projectionist. We will hire labour locally for executing the task, says Samadian.
The screen weighs 70 tonnes. The dimensions of the screen are huge 4,000-square feet with a width of 35 metres and height of 18 metres. The projector is 35mm. The sound is digital, but the screen is not. It's a pure original cinematic effect. Explaining the concert or theatre-like viewing area, Samadian says it will be a grandstand with seats built at a gradient. The makeshift theatre will be covered from all sides with the top open to the skies. So it is virtually impossible for anyone to get a sneak viewing from a neighbourhood rooftop. Despite the 32-speaker digital surround sound system, thanks to a special technology, the sound will not spill over to the surrounding area.
Though the atmosphere is open air and festive, we don't want to dilute the effect of the artistic experience, he explains.
So it's not going to be like an open-air picnic. There will be food outlets with international cuisine, set up by the host hotels at a reasonable price. But no food will be allowed inside. We will open the area two hours before viewing to give plenty of time for the audiences to enjoy the ambience and cuisine and socialise. There will be tents for pre-viewing entertainment, including VIP areas with special chalet-like tents. But once the screening starts, the focus is on the film.
The films selected to be screened will be the latest releases premiering in the UAE, with each night dedicated to a theme. The movies will cater to the UAE's multi-cultural demography from an array of genres, including comedies, action movies and thrillers. But no horror films, says Samadian. Gulf Films and Shooting Star will be supplying the movies, he adds.
The opening night will be the Swiss Night. We plan to have an Arabic Night, an Indian Night, with a Bollywood movie screening, and then we have a Charity Night, and two Family Nights with movies suitable for children.
Hollywood movies will, of course, form the major chunk of the menu and will cater to the diverse demography of this country. We have plans to invite several celebrities for each theme. But the list is still under wraps.
Talking about the giant screen, Samadian says, There's nothing in the world like it. The screen will lie flat face down during the day, in case of Dubai, on the beach, and can be put up in about five to seven minutes. That itself is a unique experience.
It's a hydraulic brake technology which we have developed in Switzerland. The screen has an in-built protective cover on top. This has great scope for branding. And the interesting part is, it does not shake even if there is a strong breeze. The screen comprises several smaller screens that fit seamlessly to form a huge screen. It takes four days to assemble it. And we test it two nights before. When asked what the screen is made of, Samadian gives a mysterious smile and says, It's a secret. That's why it's patented. What if something goes wrong? Is there a Plan B?
We have been doing this for 20 years. Our team knows exactly which screw, nut and bolt goes where and can assemble it like clockwork. We also know what to do if the hydraulic system fails.
The last event was in DГјsseldorf in Germany and all the equipment will be shipped from there to Rotterdam and then to the UAE.
Why the UAE?
Samadian says, We wanted to venture into the Middle East and Dubai is the happening place. It is culturally the ideal place. So we chose to come here.
What about the vagaries of the weather? We studied the market and weather conditions here for 18 months before inking the deal, since it's an open-air concept, he says. We cannot screen films in summer. And the middle of winter might see unexpected showers. So we chose November as the ideal time. With pleasant weather, Mina Salam Beach as the backdrop, with the silhouette of Burj Al Arab, the experience would be wonderful. And in Abu Dhabi it will be in the garden area of the magnificent Emirates Palace.
Samadian refuses to divulge how much this mega venture is going to cost. With ticket price at a modest Dh50 per person per show, what about profits? It won't even help Swiss OpenAir break even.
Oh, no! These shows cost a fortune to put up. Even Dh500 a ticket will not cover the costs. Imagine eight containers of equipment with the six storey-screen weighing 70 tonnes. We don't hope to recoup our cost from ticket revenues. That will go to charity. An event of this magnitude is not possible without sponsorship. This is where our main sponsors Hydra Properties come in. That is why it is called the Hydra Open Air Cinema UAE 2008. Also, Hydra are into TV, music and entertainment. So we thought they were the right partners for us. We signed the deal in April 2008.
Dr Sulaiman Al Fahim, the CEO of Hydra Properties, a movie-buff himself, says, Going to the movies is an integral part of life in the UAE, and we have taken this activity a step further by transforming the entire experience. We are sure that this will be a grand success. And the fact that we have a three-year deal with Swiss OpenAir Concept should reflect our confidence in this venture. The branding opportunity and mileage from the events would certainly catapult the backers of this venture into a household name.
With their local knowledge and our technical know-how, we are sure that we can give the UAE a unique annual show unlike anything they have seen, says Samadian.
After Dubai and Abu Dubai. Where next? Singapore and then probably India the home of Bollywood movies! And next year, we are going to come back again for 12 nights.
With great weather, fantastic locations and the best films all under the desert sky, the event promises to be modern-day Arabian nights.
THE HYDRA Open Air Cinema UAE 2008 is scheduled to take place from November 4 to 15 at Madinat Jumeirah Dubai, and from November 25 to December 6 at the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi. There will be dedicated areas for children's entertainment and two family days. There will be pre-screening entertainment and international cuisine outlets. Each ticket per show is priced at Dh50.
The doors will open at 7pm with the movie screening at 9.15pm. Fridays will be family nights. The doors will open at 5pm and the screening will be at 8pm. Except for one film, others are going to be premieres.
Tickets will be on sale at Virgin Mega Store outlets, who are the support sponsors. Online booking would also be possible, but the finer points of the sale of tickets are yet to be worked out.
NEW HORIZONS: Art, technology and culture will come together to make The Hydra Open Air Cinema UAE 2008 a memorable event in the UAE calendar, where movie buffs can watch films against the backdrop of Madinat Jumeirah.