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Morocco’s widescreen desert

Morocco's film industry provides effective sets and crews for wide range of Hollywood movies.

“We’re hoping we can do better,” he said. “The projects are just postponed, they’re not shut down.”

But less money for studios can have a ripple effect elsewhere. “The movie industry touches a lot of other areas besides the studios,” Tazi said. “It touches handcrafts, construction, other costumes and things are used … I mean it’s not just one thing.”

Officials with the Moroccan Film Center, the branch of government that regulates the movie business, said Morocco is weathering the downturn successfully even as they acknowledge its effect.

“We feel it, clearly, because the crisis has hit quite hard,” said Nour Eddine Sail, the Film Center’s director, who said this year saw the cancellation of several major films slated for production here.

Last year, Sail said foreign productions brought more than $100 million into Morocco — thanks largely to the mega-budget Jake Gyllenhaal vehicle “Prince of Persia,” set to debut in 2010.

In normal years, Sail said foreign productions spend between $50 million and $70 million in Morocco. This year’s revenues have been on the low side, he said, but they aren’t expected to dip below $50 million.

Executive Amine Tazi says he has faith his studios will be able to attract more productions next year. “We have great locations that aren’t expensive. We have a great crew that is not expensive,” he said. “Because everything comes back to money.”

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/morocco/091123/morocco%E2%80%99s-widescreen-desert