Reliance unveils Tinseltown ties

Deal brings Indian cash to Hollywood

CANNES - India’s biggest film producer Reliance Big Entertainment, which made waves here this week with the announcement of a new billion-dollar film fund, has followed up by unveiling a slew of development deals with eight of Tinseltown¹s best-known names.

Reliance on Sunday announced non-competitive agreements with Nicolas Cage’s Saturn Productions; Jim Carrey’s JCB 23; George Clooney’s Smokehouse Productions; Chris Columbus’ 1492 Pictures; Tom Hanks’ Playtone Productions; Brad Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment; and Jay Roach’s Everyman Pictures.

The agreements will provide a development silo for each production entity. Reliance may co-finance projects realized through the deals, and could keep Indian distribution rights on such co-financed projects. Their Hollywood partners would retain full creative freedom.

“In the next ten years, I believe we will see a new world order in the entertainment industry,” Amit Khanna, Big Entertainment chairman, said. “This deal is an expression of the soft power of India in the international media industry and our expansion abroad.”

Reliance put a value of $1 billion on this Hollywood deal, but said there was potentially no limit to the amount to be invested. The company envisages investment in around ten projects per year. “The idea is to develop strategic partnerships,” said Khanna. “We don’t want to put a limit on this participation.”

“This is a good thing for the studios with equity financing drying up thanks to the financial crunch,” said an agent from CAA, which brokered the deal. “It provides a new source of funding for the studios, and gives the studios a foothold in the India, a market they are all expanding into.”

Earlier this week Reliance Big Entertainment, the entertainment and media arm of the multibillion Reliance, announced its initial production slate of 69 movies, and a slew of production deals with various international filmmakers, including Vidhu Vinod Chopra, and Excel Entertainment.

Other finance news this week, includes: Rival shop William Morris announced Saturday a new $100 million fund together with Screen Media International to create a new production and financing entity; Ashok Amritraj’s Hyde Park Entertainment launched an Asian production fund set to funnel money into new productions from the region; and new Anglo/South African sales shingle Spier Films announced the availability of private equity financing giving it a niche position in South Africa.

“Bollywood is somehow personified by song and dance and Hollywood by sex and violence, and there is this idea that neither can meet,” said Khanna. “We don’t believe this is true.”