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Hollywood calling

American film studios started experimenting with the Indian movie scene and local content almost two years ago.

business Updated: May 29, 2011 23:36 IST
Rachit Vats

American film studios started experimenting with the Indian movie scene and local content almost two years ago. Now they’re going beyond just dubbing English movies in Indian languages. Hollywood studios are looking at tie-ups with Indian production and distribution houses to strengthen their positions in this market. Films meant specifically for India are the big draw.

Last week, UTV Motion Pictures tied up with Walt Disney to co-produce and distribute Disney films in India. Around the same time, Viacom18 Motion Pictures tied up with Paramount Pictures to distribute films.

Reliance Entertainment has multiple alliances in the works — including those with Steven Spielberg and BBC Worldwide. Last week, former Universal Pictures Chairman David Linde and Reliance Entertainment announced Linde’s new company, a platform for film production and financing. Reliance Entertainment is providing the capital.

Working on a global distribution structure, the company will produce and finance projects creating a ‘brand’ of films designed for the global market.

Western studios in India are hoping to cash in on India’s potential and replicate the success of Slumdog Millionaire, which took in more than $80 million (Rs 360 crore).

While Hollywood looks India-wards, Bollywood is equally keen to go global. A win-win arrangement for both, the alliances are long-term strategic moves.

At the press conference to announce an alliance between Viacom18 Motion Pictures and Paramount Pictures India, Andrew Cripps, president, Paramount Pictures India, said: “This is a step... in one of the fastest growing and most exciting markets internationally.”

The Indian film industry, estimated at Rs 8,300 crore in 2010, is projected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 9.6% to touch Rs 13,300 crore in revenues by 2015, according to the latest FICCI-KMPG report.

“There is a growing audience and a double opportunity in the form of dubbed Hollywood films and producing movies,” said Timmy S Kandhari, leader, entertainment & media practice, Pricewater-houseCoopers India.

In March 2010, The Walt Disney Company indicated it would step up production initiatives in India. Betting on localisation, Walt Disney Studio (India) unveiled a shadow of its plan that included 14 family-oriented films (three have already been released).

Exactly a year later, it inked the alliance with UTV Motion Pictures to co-produce Disney-branded films ‘aimed at family audiences’. Disney and UTV will share creative responsibilities, while UTV will manage production, marketing and distribution.

“India is a priority market... This is a step to accelerate the process and build scale for Disney in India,” said Mahesh Samat, senior VP and MD, The Walt Disney Company (India). Walt Disney Company holds a 50.5% stake in UTV Software Communications.

The alliance will help Disney make further inroads in India. “We are looking at movies of scale and, with UTV, our goal is to make films that embody Disney brand values — fun, meaningful and emotional entertainment for the entire family,” said Samat. Outside the US, India is the top market for investment in local content.

Disney’s first Indian release (in 2008) was a co-production with Bollywood banner Yash Raj Films for an animation title named Roadside Romeo. Its next project — and a first Hindi live-action feature — was Do Dooni Chaar followed by kiddie super hero caper Zokkomon and a foray into the regional south Indian industry in January 2011.

“For Disney, the benefit lies in localisation and they will also tap our distribution strength. Disney was looking for a local partner who has expertise in churning out good content on a consistent basis,” said Siddharth Roy Kapur, CEO, UTV Motion Pictures. He said the alliance is limited to domestic projects only.

Other Hollywood companies are also looking at production as the new business opportunity. Warner Bros and Fox Star have already announced their plans to go beyond just distribution.

Viacom18 (a Viacom and Network 18 joint venture) too is looking at growing its franchisee through Viacom18 Motion Pictures, which it sees as a big area for growth. Viacom18 and Paramount Pictures International have formed an alliance that will give Viacom18 the rights to distribute all Paramount releases in the Indian subcontinent. Viacom 18 expects 15-20% of its business to come from the English entertainment space in the coming years.

“We are focused on the Hindi film franchise; there is a reasonable-sized portfolio of Hindi films coming up. There is also a wonderful opportunity — in addition to producing our films — to distribute Hollywood films all over India that we get from Paramount,” said Haresh Chawla, group CEO, Viacom18.

Viacom18 Motion Pictures will also look at using Paramount’s global distribution network to release its films outside India.

Vijay Singh, CEO, Star-Fox said: “We are establishing ourselves as a one-stop shop for producers and are looking to co-produce at least five Bollywood films in India on an average.”

It’s a win-win situation as Indian producers nurture global aspirations while Hollywood studios, with their high creative standards, look at potential business emerging from India.