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India's Reliance expands its U.S. footprint

Reliance Big Entertainment is making another bet on U.S. film interests.

The India-based company, which last year launched a joint venture with DreamWorks, is making a significant investment in IM Global, a Los Angeles-based company specializing in foreign-rights sales.

IM Global, run by Miramax alumnus Stuart Ford, had previously signed a deal with Reliance under which IM Global handles the foreign sales of Reliance's Hindi-language films. But the new pact will substantially expand the relationship, giving Reliance a majority stake in the privately owned IM Global.

Financial terms were not disclosed. 

Ford will remain in his current position as chief executive, in an arrangement not unlike the DreamWorks-Reliance relationship, in which the U.S.-based executives run the company day to day.

The foreign-sales film market is a cottage industry of the entertainment business. It essentially involves companies selling foreign rights to projects in various stages of development, with the money from those sales used toward a project's production budget. Though a number of territories have contracted their buying activities over the last two years, several global-film experts have said the market has lately been showing signs of a rebound.

The news comes concurrent with IM Global's launching a division dedicated to international cinema; that group will specialize in the financing and selling of local-language films around the world, Ford said. IM Global has also made a number of hires in recent months as it seeks to expand its business.

Though IM Global is a distinctly smaller operation than a major studio player like DreamWorks, it has carved out a strong niche handling sales of a diverse number of titles, including "Paranormal Activity" and 2009 awards candidate "A Single Man" among its recent sales.

At the upcoming Cannes Film Festival, IM Global is handling sales of a number of high-profile movies, including a Kevin Costner passion project "A Little War of Our Own," a John Cusack thriller titled "The Factory" and a Will Ferrell comedy called "Everything Must Go."

-- Steven Zeitchik

 
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