'Akbar' preps major worldwide rollout

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NEW DELHI -- The $10 million romantic epic "Jodhaa Akbar" will open on more than 1,500 screens worldwide when it bows Feb. 15 in 26 countries, with the U.S. playing host to about 125 prints.

Major 2007 release "Om Shanti Om," which screened out of competition at this year's Berlin festival, saw about 120 prints released in the U.S., with a worldwide screen count of roughly 1,500, according to its London-based distributor Eros.

Directed by Ashutosh Gowariker (Academy Award-nominated "Lagaan"), "Jodhaa Akbar" revolves around the story of 16th century Mughal emperor Akbar (Hrithik Roshan) and his Hindu wife Jodhaa Bai (Aishwarya Rai). It was produced by Mumbai-based UTV Motion Pictures, whose parent company UTV listed on the London Stock Exchange's Alternative Investment Market last year.

On Tuesday, UTVMP, which is handling worldwide distribution, said that the film will open on more than 1,300 screens in India including 500 digital screens.

In an interview, UTVMP director Siddharth Roy Kapur said that special preview screenings, sponsored by Citibank, will take place Feb. 14 in New York, Chicago, Houston and San Francisco.

UTV also has launched an anti-piracy drive in the U.S., sending legal warning letters in advance of the film's release to 500 retail stores that allegedly stock pirated DVDs.

Upcoming UTV projects include M. Night Shyamalan's "The Happening," co-produced with 20th Century Fox.
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