Entertainment Industry

Category: Reliance Big Entertainment

Reliance and Digital Domain partner to open new studios in U.K. and India

Transformers
Hollywood is becoming even more reliant on one of India's biggest media companies.

Reliance MediaWorks, a division of the conglomerate Reliance ADA Group, said Monday that it has partnered with the Venice-based visual effects house Digital Domain Productions to open studios in London and Mumbai, underscoring the increasingly global nature of California's visual effects industry.

The new studios will provide a variety of post-production services for movies, TV shows and commercials. The facilities will be owned by Reliance, which has existing post-production facilities in London and Mumbai, and will be managed by Digital Domain, which recently handled visual effects work for "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" and "Thor." Financial terms were not disclosed.

The deal marks the latest entertainment industry investment by Reliance, which operates a chain of Indian theaters in the U.S. called Big Cinemas and an image processing center in Burbank, Lowry Digital, a film restoration business it acquired in 2008.

Reliance provided half the funding for Steven Spielberg's newly independent DreamWorks Studios after it split from parent Paramount Pictures and has business partnerships with production companies run by such high-profile industry figures as Tom Hanks, George Clooney, Brad Pitt and partners Ron Howard and Brian Grazer. In June, former Universal Pictures co-Chairman David Linde announced that his new independent film finance and production company would be backed by Reliance Entertainment.

The partnership will give Digital Domain, founded in 1993 by James Cameron and other investors, its first foray into India, where several other rivals such as Technicolor and Rhythm & Hues already have operations to take advantage of substantially lower labor costs there.  The U.K., which has a strong film tax credit, has lured a number of big movies in recent years and become a major hub for visual effects. Such competition has squeezed small to midsize California visual effects companies, several of which have gone out of business in recent years.

"Filmmaking has become a global enterprise,'' said Cliff Plumer, chief executive of Digital Domain Productions. "A partnership with Reliance MediaWorks will allow our clients to realize the benefits of a digital production pipeline that makes efficient use of resources and talent located around the world."

Digital Domain also has a visual effects studio in Vancouver, Canada, and has been expanding its 3-D conversion business. Last year it acquired In-Three Inc. in Westlake Village and moved most workers to Florida. Its Florida parent company recently announced plans to raise up to up to $115 million in an intial public stock offering this summer.

-- Richard Verrier

Photo from "Transformers: Dark of the Moon." Credit: Paramount Pictures.

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David Linde seeks backing from Universal and Reliance for new venture

Former Universal Pictures co-Chairman David Linde is in negotiations with his former studio and India's entertainment giant Reliance ADA to become partners in his soon-to-launch production company Lava Bear Films, people with knowledge of the talks confirmed.Linde

Reliance, which has been expanding its presence in Hollywood and owns half of  Steven Spielberg's production company DreamWorks and a chain of theaters and post-production facilities in the U.S., would become a major equity investor in Linde's new production company.

Universal Pictures would give Linde a nonexclusive production deal and distribute his company's movies domestically and in select international territories. Linde is also in talks with independent foreign distributors to handle the release of his pictures in key overseas markets. A person familiar with the matter said Linde plans to make up to four movies a year.

Linde, who along with Universal co-Chairman Marc Shmuger was fired a year ago this week from Universal after a prolonged box-office slump, is expected to formally announce his new company and backers by year-end.

News of the negotiations were first reported by Deadline Hollywood.

-- Claudia Eller 

Photo: David Linde by Alex Berliner

CBS teams up with India's Reliance Media

Broadcasting giant CBS Corp. is becoming the latest U.S. media company to enter the fast-growing Indian television market, teaming up with a company backed by one of India's wealthiest men.

CBS announced Wednesday that it had structured a 50-50 joint venture with Anil Dhirubhai Ambani's Reliance Broadcast Network that initially will launch three English-language channels in India. The pay television channels, which are expected to go on the air in October, will showcase programs that CBS owns, including "NCIS," "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" and its eagerly awaited remake of "Hawaii Five-0."

AnilAmbani

The deal provides CBS with an opportunity to wring more money from its library of older shows, including "Melrose Place," "Star Trek: The Next Generation," "Dynasty" and "Frasier."

In addition, with the help of Reliance's television production unit, CBS should be able to create local adaptations of popular shows such as "Entertainment Tonight" and "America's Next Top Model," which would become "India's Next Top Model."  

The channels will target India's younger and more affluent audiences.

Until recently, CBS primarily focused on its domestic operations. It has been looking to expand internationally and last year formed a similar joint venture in Britain with Chellomedia, the European content arm of cable pioneer John Malone's Liberty Global Inc.

Other media companies, including Sony and News Corp., have been operating in India for more than a decade. Viacom Inc. two years ago entered into a joint venture with an Indian media company to distribute a popular Hindi entertainment channel called Colors. Time Warner Inc.'s Turner and Warner Bros. divisions launched an English-language Warner Bros. channel in India last year.

CBS announced the India joint venture, which will be called Big CBS Networks, during a news conference in Mumbai. The two companies said they would eventually look at forming Hindi channels, which would be more lucrative because they would appeal to a broader audience than English-language channels.

There are an estimated 134 million homes with televisions in India, with more than two-thirds having access to cable or satellite television. Total television revenue was about $5.7 billion last year.

-- Meg James

Photo: Anil Dhirubhai Ambani. Credit: Punit Paranjpe / AFP/Getty Images

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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