Overbrook Entertainment, a company created by popular Hollywood actor Will Smith and his business partner James Lassiter, and UTV, an Indian television and film concern run by Ronnie Screwvala, have agreed to produce two movies.
UTV will pay the costs of the two films, neither of which will star the popular Smith, up to a specified sum (after that amount, Overbrook has to raise the money) but the burden is on Smith and Lassiter to develop a script and hire the cast, the New York Times reported.
The deal says a lot about Hollywood's desire to court foreign audiences, the daily said as it shows how after years of declining movie attendance at home, studios and movie stars are looking for new opportunities abroad.
But it says even more about Smith's ambition to become an international player. "It's been said, 'Why sell something to 10 people when you can sell it to 10 million people?'.
The deal with UTV follows Smith's failure to get into China, where government censors allowed only 20 foreign movie imports in 2005, leaving out his romantic comedy Hitch.
The rejection rankled the actor; China is one of the fastest-growing movie markets. So at a gathering of the Sony Corporation's top management in January, Smith appealed to the chief executive, Sir Howard Stringer, and a studio executive, Michael Lynton, to introduce him to Chinese producing partners.
"We can be more helpful in India," Lynton told Smith at a meeting at the Kahala Resort in Honolulu. India has a robust movie industry with none of China's political constraints. Lynton offered to introduce the actor to Indian producers, actors and directors. And the next month Smith took his first trip to India.
Now he has a deal - to make movies there instead.