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Fox sets Asian movie venture

September 10, 2008 |  5:18 pm

Ctlogo_2When it comes to Hollywood, Asia isn’t just a destination for outsourcing. It’s a place to insource.

Yesterday 20th Century Fox became the latest major American studio to set up shop abroad, joining its fellow News Corp.-owned media company STAR to produce and distribute movies for Asian audiences in Asian languages.

The new venture, Fox STAR Studios, will aim to be a “one-stop shop that encompasses film acquisition, development, marketing, production and distribution in India,” said newly appointed Chief Executive Vijay Singh in a statement. The efforts will later expand to China and Southeast Asia.

News Corp. has long had a foothold in the continent’s media field, having bought STAR — a television broadcaster and producer with holdings in film, cable systems, and wireless and digital services — more than a decade ago.

In May, Fox Filmed Entertainment, of which 20th Century Fox is a division, announced the launch of an international unit to expand the company’s production and distribution of local-language movies around the world.

Indeed, Hollywood is increasingly turning to Bollywood for partners in what it describes, in somewhat colonial sounding terms, as "indigenous productions."

Saawariya2_3Last fall, Sony Pictures Entertainment released “Saawariya,” a Bollywood film it produced as part of a longer-term collaboration with the Indian media company Eros International. This fall, Walt Disney Co. is set to premiere “Roadside Romeo,” the first of a number of animated films it plans to make jointly with Mumbai-based Yash Raj Films.

And early next year, Warner Bros. Pictures plans to release “Chandni Chowk to China,” which has an appropriately globalized plot — an Indian cook from the eponymous poor Old Delhi neighborhood pretends to be a martial arts master.

Viacom Inc. and NBC Universal have also expressed interest in making movies in India, and have made inroads in other Indian media markets.

“We’ve seen a clear trend in Asia with the increasing prominence and market significance of local product,” said David Molner, managing director of Screen Capital International, a Beverly Hills media investment firm. “The management at Fox has fundamentally understood this.”

-- Swati Pandey

Photo: A scene from "Saawariya." Credit: Columbia Pictures

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