UTV eyes world cinema venture

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NEW DELHI -- Leading Mumbai-based media entity UTV announced a new venture Tuesday, UTV Palador, which will promote world cinema in India via theatrical and home video distribution as well as a planned TV channel.

UTV Palador will offer more than 1,000 titles from 20 countries and promote the initiative under the brand name "Olive Collection," which includes classics from such masters as Akira Kurosawa, Francois Truffaut, Michael Haneke, Wim Wenders, Claude Chabrol, Takeshi Kitano and Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami.

Given that industry estimates put Hollywood and other foreign films' share of the market here at less than 10%, UTV Palador aims to create a new niche for the genre of world cinema. UTV Palador has earmarked an initial investment of $16 million in the program.

"UTV Palador's main objective is to ensure that the beauty, timelessness and quality of the world's greatest filmmakers is not lost to Indians," UTV managing director Ronnie Screwvala said in a statement. "In addition, this is an extremely high potential category with no significant competition in the horizon."

The Olive DVD Collection will roll out in April and will include short films by Indian filmmakers as well as bonus items such as movie posters and memorabilia.

Some of the titles slated for DVD release include films by Krzysztof Kieslowski (including "Red," "White" and "Blue"), Kurosawa ("Seven Samurai") and Lars von Trier ("Dogville").

Theatrically, UTV Palador will initially distribute titles through 20 cinemas nationally.

Though plans for a dedicated world cinema TV channel are being finalized, a sneak preview will be shown every Sunday for a limited period beginning April 1 on the Zee Studio channel, an English-language movie channel owned by Indian broadcast network Zee TV.

UTV's film production banner produced India's Oscar entry this year, "Rang De Basanti" (Paint It Yellow), and co-produced Mira Nair's latest, "The Namesake," with Fox Searchlight.

UTV also holds India distribution rights for the Miramax catalog.
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