Relativity Bankruptcy: Company "Intends to Continue" Joint Venture with India's B4U Networks

Relativity Media India premiere for 'The Best of Me' - H 2014

Launched last year, Relativity's India joint venture announced Bollywood remakes of 'The Best of Me,' 'Oculus,' '3 Days to Kill' and 'Masterminds.'

Relativity Media, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, intends to continue its India joint venture with local partner B4U Networks.

Relativity-B4U was launched last year at Cannes, and while financial details were not given, according to a statement at the time the joint venture had earmarked an investment “of approximately $100 million available for projects.”

When asked by The Hollywood Reporter if Relativity's Chapter 11 filing would impact its India venture, the company said in a statement: “Relativity intends to continue working with B4U, as well as all other business partners, throughout this process.”

B4U Networks is a leading Bollywood film and television network whose major shareholders include U.K.-based steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal, leading Indian film and entertainment entity Eros International executive director Kishore Lullaand London-based industrialist Gokul Binani. Relativity B4U is managed by B4U CEO Ishan Saksena and overseen by a board of directors.

Relativity-B4U's plans include producing Bollywood remakes of some of its Hollywood titles, starting with romantic drama The Best of Me, as part of a three-picture deal with leading Bollywood banner Balaji Telefilms. The announcement last October was timed with the India premiere of The Best of Me in Mumbai, attended by Relativity CEO Ryan Kavanaugh and the film's director, Michael Hoffman, along with stars Michelle Monaghan and James Marsden.

“There is a lot of content we make that is very appropriate for Bollywood,” Kavanaugh told THR at the time of the announcement.

The film's India distribution was handled by Relativity-B4U as part of its mandate to distribute Relativity's film and other entertainment content in the country. This was followed by the local release of Tim Burton's Big Eyes, with the venture handling the upcoming release of The Transporter Refueled via Red, Relativity's joint distribution venture with Luc Besson's EuropaCorp.

Red is not part of the bankruptcy, so EuropaCorp's upcoming release schedule — which includes The Transporter Refueled (Sept. 4), Shut In (Feb. 19) and The Lake (July 15, 2016) — remains unaffected.

“We have a number of other studios now approaching us to distribute their movies in India,” Kavanaugh told THR in March when he visited India again to deliver a keynote at the Frames conference in Mumbai.

He also unveiled additions to the India slate with additional Bollywood remakes of Relativity titles Oculus, Kevin Costner starrer 3 Days to Kill and upcoming heist comedy Masterminds starring Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Wiig and Owen Wilson whose U.S. release date has been pushed to Oct. 9 from August.

Ghost thriller Oculus — which was released last August  focused on a brother and sister who attempt to destroy the spirit-possessed mirror that killed their parents. The film's Bollywood version, titled Zahhak, which has just wrapped filming, is directed by Prawaal Raman and stars actress Huma Qureshi and her actor brother Saqib Saleem.

Beyond remakes, the India joint venture also announced an original local co-production, tentatively titled Three Stories, with Bollywood banner Excel Entertainment, co-founded by leading actor and film-maker Farhan Akhtar. Directed by Arjun Mukherjee, the film stars actresses Richa Chadda and Masumeh Makhija and actors Pulkit Samrat and Sharman Joshi.

Release dates for both Zahhak and Three Stories are expected to be announced once the projects are completed.

In his Frames keynote titled “Make in India: A Revolutionary New Model for Hollywood and Bollywood,” Kavanaugh had also stated that he would like to shoot the sequel to Relativity's The Immortals in India. When asked by THR how far the project had developed, Kavanaugh said: “We are early on. … The script is almost ready, and Henry Cavill (Superman) is the star. We would like to explore the idea of shooting an entire movie in India that can end up grossing $300 million to $400 million worldwide. We are also thinking about casting one of the lead roles with an Indian actor. The two industries [India and the U.S.] can be unified to create something special.”

As for the company's other projects, Relativity-B4U's launch announcement included a planned pay TV channel in India “focused on Hollywood content in both English and Hindi” and the intention to launch digital streaming platform RelaTV “to deliver compelling short- and longform content to Indian consumers.”