UAE cinema promises an extra dimension to summer

Comic book fans and devotees of 3D will be on cloud nine this summer with a wave of cinema releases.

Attendees take photographs of a life size statue of Iron Man while on the convention floor during the opening night of the annual Comic Con in San Diego, California  July 21, 2010.  REUTERS/Mike Blake  (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY)

The summer movie schedule has been good to the geeks. Whether you are a comic book fan enamoured with the details of the Iron Man suit, a video game nerd who revelled in the acrobatics of Prince of Persia, or a sci-fi freak awestruck by the fantastical planet of Pandora, the cinematic summer may well have floated your boat.

And there are no signs of letting up. At the Comic-Con International convention in San Diego, one of the highlights is a panel discussing Tron: Legacy, the sequel to the 1982 science fiction cult favourite Tron, starring His Dudeness, Jeff Bridges. Inception, Christopher Nolan's cerebral thriller, was released in the UAE last week to rave reviews. Word of mouth meant theatres in Dubai were filling up by the middle of Saturday afternoon.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice, a magician's tale starring Nicholas Cage, opened last weekend and could provide Harry Potter fans with holdover entertainment until the first part of the franchise's concluding instalment hits screens in November. MNight Shyamalan, the once-loved director of The Sixth Sense and now much-maligned brain behind Lady in the Water and The Happening is teaming up with Dev Patel of Slumdog Millionaire in The Last Airbender.

The movie follows the tale of Aang, a descendant of the mythical Avatars, as he attempts to defeat the Fire Lord Ozai, who, as fire lords often are, is on a quest to destroy the world. The film and its incomprehensible plot are due to make their debut on Thursday. On August 5, the latest instalment in the Golden Age of comic book movies will arrive with the release of Jonah Hex. The film stars Josh Brolin alongside John Malkovich and Megan Fox in the role of the comic book antihero and bounty hunter, whose face bears a scar burned from a branding iron.

Local outlets are also bringing back some of the year's hits for 3D viewing, to make up for a sparse release schedule during the Holy Month of Ramadan. Cinestar, which runs theatres in Mall of the Emirates, Deira City and Centre and Abu Dhabi's Marina Mall, among others, is planning re-releases from August 12. "For one month, you can catch Avatar, Alice in Wonderland, Clash of the Titans, How to Train Your Dragon, Toy Story 3, Shrek 4 and Streetdance on our digital 3D screens at Mall of the Emirates, Marina Mall Abu Dhabi and ExtremeScreen, Mirdif City Centre," said Michelle Walsh, Cinestar's marketing manager.

Ms Walsh said the experience would provide cinema-goers with an indoor escape from the summer heat. That alone might draw some geeks to the theatres. "In Ramadan, they usually do not play a lot of new movies because people are more in cafes and gatherings and there are many Ramadan TV soap operas," said Arineh Shahmirzayan, 25, an Armenian executive assistant and film buff who is a weekly visitor to the capital's cinemas.

"Definitely, I'm very excited about Avatar and Clash of the Titans as I didn't get to see them when they first came out," said Ms Shahmirzayan, who said the novelty of watching films in 3D has not worn off yet. Still, the box office numbers show traditional geek fodder like comic books make for movies that transcend the niche. Even a videogame film like Prince of Persia received more press attention than previous films based on game property.

"Franchise movies do well here due to the strong marketing campaigns run by the local movie distributors for these films," Ms Walsh said. "The UAE market responds well to all Hollywood releases, especially action films and blockbusters."