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Image Nation Abu Dhabi Pacts With U.S. Producers Roy Lee, Steven Schneider

Variety logo Variety 5/16/2017 Nick Vivarelli
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ROME – Prominent Middle Eastern production company Image Nation Abu Dhabi has forged a three-year pact with veteran Hollywood genre movie producers Roy Lee (“The Ring”) and Steven Schneider (“Paranormal Activity”) to jointly produce a slate of high-concept, low-budget horror films destined for the international market.

Though specifics on the projects are being kept under wraps, the plan is to make at least one English-language movie with franchise potential per year, fully financed by Image Nation, according to a statement.

Directors are being decided. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

The deal reunites Schneider with Image Nation after their recent collaboration on Emirati director Ali F. Mustafa’s “The Worthy,” a dystopian Arabic-language thriller set for global release via Netflix this month.

Besides “The Ring” and “Paranormal Activity,” Lee and Schneider (pictured – Schneider left, Lee right) each have a long track record churning out other hit horror franchises, including “The Grudge,” which was produced by Lee, and “Insidious,” by Schneider. Lee is also a producer of  “The Lego Movie” and “How to Train Your Dragon” franchises.

The two U.S. producers previously paired up on the 2016 “Blair Witch” remake, among other projects.

Image Nation, which is run by U.S. exec Michael Garin, has been venturing into genre movies by Arab directors for several years. Their Tarantino-esque noir “Rattle the Cage,” is considered the first movie of this type to come out of the United Arab Emirates. Netflix picked up “Cage” in 2016, its first acquisition from the UAE.

An Image Nation rep declined to specify whether the new pact will involve Arab helmers, saying simply that directors are being decided “across the board.”

In a statement, Image Nation Head of Narrative, Film and Television Ben Ross said the deal would allow the Abu Dhabi-based company to “broaden our international production slate to create more dark genre titles with great potential for lucrative franchises.”

“I am impressed with the way Image Nation has approached the genre space,” Lee said in the statement. “Steven and I are excited to work with them in creating globally appealing movies and franchises and pushing the boundaries of the genre.”

The deal was brokered by Stuart Manashil on behalf of Lee and Schneider, and by Ross and Derek Dauchy for Image Nation.

Image Nation, which has a business strategy based on calculated risk investments in Hollywood to help finance commercially viable local projects, has long-term relationships in Hollywood with Ashok Amritraj’s Hyde Park and Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald’s Parkes/MacDonald shingles.

They fully financed Tom Hanks thriller “The Circle,” produced in association with Parkes MacDonald Productions, and have several new pics in the pipeline including horror-thriller “Prey,” produced by Blumhouse and Hyde Park Entertainment. They are also producing Abu Dhabi-set legal drama “Justice,” inspired by “L.A. Law,” written by  U.S. producer and writer William Finkelstein in collaboration with a local team.

Late last year, Image Nation Abu Dhabi forged a partnership to set up a $300 million fund to jointly invest in movies and TV content produced in Hollywood, the United Arab Emirates, China and other countries.

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