Variety to spice up life in the region

Bilingual edition will cover entertainment industry differently.

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Tom Cruise's visit to Dubai came just a few months too early for the publishers of Variety Arabia, which will be launched in January.

A local edition of Variety, the magazine about the entertainment industry founded in 1905, will be produced under licence by a publisher based in Dubai. The bilingual title, geared towards the Middle East and north Africa, will have articles in both English and Arabic, and be accompanied by a website.

The filming of Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, which stars Tom Cruise, would have been prime territory for the magazine.

But Variety Arabia would have focused on what it means for the industry, rather than the celebrity aspect, says Charles Rodgers, the operations director at Middle East Media & Publishing, which is publishing the title under licence from the US owners.

"Tom flying round the Burj Khalifa would be covered by a lot of other folk. We'd cover much more of a 'behind the scenes' angle, about how other people can do such deals. Too bad [Cruise's visit] didn't happen three months from now," said Mr Rodgers.

"This is a trade publication first and foremost. There's a burgeoning entertainment market here … We certainly feel it's a niche we're going to fill."

Variety Arabia will initially be published quarterly, unlike the US edition that appears every week. But Mr Rodgers said the intention was to increase the frequency to monthly. Likewise, the hope is to publish English and Arabic editions separately.

"We're looking at quarterly to start, and we'd like to get that down to monthly," he said. "It will be a bilingual edition, and inshallah, we'll go so big that we'll have to split it out."

Content from the US edition will be republished in English and translated into Arabic. Later on, original articles about the MENA region will be published in Variety Arabia. "Certainly in the beginning, there will be some content from the US. But we really want to grow the local organisation … Content will be developed locally, for sure", said Mr Rodgers.

Middle East Media & Publishing is a new company established with the sole purpose of publishing Variety Arabia, said Mr Rodgers. He declined to identify the "group of businessmen" backing the private company, which is registered in a Fujairah free zone but operates from offices in Dubai and Cairo. The company also intends to form a presence in Beirut.

Variety Arabia will help to "put the Middle East on the global entertainment map", said Mr Rodgers.

"The future bodes well. The market here is a very youthful market - the youth segment is massive and is in tune with TV, entertainment and content," he said.

"We see film funds, film festivals … So we see a lot of activity and emphasis on trying to build a world-class market." Variety's London office will manage operations in conjunction with Middle East Media & Publishing, according to Variety's website.

Timothy M Gray, the editor of the US edition, will be the editor of Variety Arabia in its initial period.

"It's an exciting time for the MENA region's entertainment industry, particularly in film and television, and with regard to culturally themed projects," said Mr Gray.