Disney Studios keen on more India, China movie deals | india | Hindustan Times
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Disney Studios keen on more India, China movie deals

Walt Disney Studios is keen to build its presence in markets such as India and China, and will harness local talent to ensure that it is not just exporting US movies but making entertainment tailored for domestic tastes.

india Updated: Jun 15, 2007 13:21 IST
Rina Chandran

Walt Disney Studios is keen to build its presence in markets such as India and China, and will harness local talent to ensure that it is not just exporting US movies but making entertainment tailored for domestic tastes.

The unit of The Walt Disney Co. said this week it will collaborate with India's Yash Raj Films Studios on a series of computer-animated films for Indian audiences.

Disney is talking to local studios and directors to make live-action films to tap both India's love for films and its improving technology, Mark Zoradi, president of worldwide marketing and distribution, Walt Disney Studios, told Reuters in an interview.

"We've traditionally made movies in the US and exported them, but in recent years we've realised that to continue to grow our business internationally, we need to make movies that are culturally relevant to different markets," he said.

"Not in every country, but those with potential, like India and China. In India, 95 percent of the movie business is local, so we need to be in that space," said Zoradi, who helped broker the deal with Yash Raj in a little more than a year.

Disney, the No. 3 US entertainment company, and Yash Raj -- known for its mushy Bollywood romances -- will be equal partners in the venture to make one animation feature a year.

The first film, Roadside Romeo, is set for release in 2008. It will be made in India, with animation by Tata Elxsi and voiceovers by Bollywood stars Saif Khan and Kareena Kapoor.

Zoradi did not say how much Disney was investing, only that it was a part of the $100 million that Disney has said it would spend making films outside the United States in the next two to three years.

<b1>The venture with Yash Raj is similar to a one-off deal Disney has with The China Film Group and Hong Kong's Centro Digital Pictures Ltd. for a Chinese animated film. The Secret of the Magic Gourd is due to debut at the end of the month.

India's film entertainment industry is worth about 85 billion rupees ($2.1 billion) and is forecast to more than double to 175 billion rupees by 2011, according to PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

But Disney is late to the co-production table: Sony Pictures and News Corp. already have deals in India. Disney, which operates the Disney Channel and Toon Disney in India, last year bought Hungama, a children's Hindi-language entertainment channel, from UTV Software Communications Ltd. and also took 14.9 percent in the Indian broadcaster.

Zoradi said he would like to see 20-25 percent of Disney's revenues in India to come from its film and home video business. "We don't have unrealistic expectations, but as we look long-term, India will be a very important, strategic market," he said, adding Disney would also continue to outsource some of its animation production to India in a "significant manner".

"We had done very well exporting our movies, but then we looked at India and realised the infrastructure was about to explode: theatres were getting better, tax laws were improving."

Disney is also keen to make more films in China despite restrictive regulations, said Zoradi, a 27-year Disney veteran.

"The biggest limiting factor is the regulatory framework, but we're clearly going to make more Chinese films. In the long-term, China will be a Top 10 market for Disney. India, too, in the long-term, has the potential to be a Top 10 market," said Zoradi, adding the recently released Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, was Disney's biggest hit in India so far.