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Anil to bankroll Spielberg films

Billionaire Anil Ambani took the country’s entertainment industry to a new global horizon on Wednesday when his Reliance Big Entertainment inked a $825-million (about Rs 4,000 crore) production deal with Hollywood director Steven Spielberg in a plan to make half-a-dozen movies a year. Gaurav Choudhury reports.

business Updated: Jul 16, 2009 00:55 IST
Gaurav Choudhury

Some Hollywood blockbusters will now also have an Indian signature on the cheques that pay for them.

Billionaire Anil Ambani took the country’s entertainment industry to a new global horizon on Wednesday when his Reliance Big Entertainment inked a $825-million (about Rs 4,000 crore) production deal with Hollywood director Steven Spielberg in a plan to make half-a-dozen movies a year.

This initial phase of funding will include an equity investment of $325 million (Rs 1,600 crore) from Reliance ADA Group, another $125 million (Rs 615 crore) funding from Disney with the balance $375 million (Rs 1,850 crore) to be financed by banks and financial institutions.

Motion picture company DreamWorks Studios that was formed in November 2008 will make five to six films per year. Walt Disney Company will handle marketing and distribution of the company’s films around the world, except in India where Reliance Big Entertainment will retain distribution rights.

“We expect the first film to roll out by 2010,” Steven Spielberg said in a conference call with journalists from New York.

The partnership is a 50:50 joint venture, with Ambani controlling half the stake, and the balance shared by Speilberg and Dreamworks chief executive officer Stacy Snider.

Amitabh Jhunjhunwala, group managing director of ADA Group, has been nominated on the company’s board that comprises Speilberg and Snider as the other members’.

“It (the deal) is a private and personal effort and is not linked to any of the listed entities” of the ADA Group, Ambani said Spielberg, best known for blockbusters like ET, Schindler’s List and Jurassic Park, did not rule out making movies on stories based on India. “I don’t preclude and exclude anything. A good story is a good story. I have a perception about Indian audience that they are responsive to good story telling and we are good story tellers."