Anil Ambani, Spielberg announce $825 mn funding for Dreamworks

July 15, 2009

deamworksNew York, In one of the largest deals in global cinema in recent years, Anil Ambani’s Reliance Big Entertainment and noted Hollywood filmmaker Steven Spielberg Wednesday announced $825-million funding for their Los Angeles-based production house Dreamworks Studios to make six films a year for the global audiences.

In a joint global conference call from here, Ambani and Spielberg also said the movies produced by Dreamworks will be distributed by Walt Disney globally, while the exclusive rights for India will be with Reliance Big Entertainment.

“Clearly, the outlay of $825 million is what we are aiming at in the next three years – $325 million will be in the form of equity, $150 million will come from Disney, while the rest will come from banks and others,” Ambani said.

“There is no scaling up or scaling down of investment. We will begin with $825 million and this is the largest in recent times,” said the Mumbai-based industrialist, whose aides had earlier indicated an investment outlay of as much as $1.5 billion for Dreamworks.

Spielberg said he was looking forward to films produced by Dreamworks as also to visit India soon to meet with filmmakers, scriptwriters and actors to see how they can all collaborate.

“We have a golden opportunity to have a better control over our product,” he said, alluding to the strained relationship Dreamworks faced after it was sold to Viacom’s Paramount in 2006 for $1.6 billion.

“I am very excited that we are in business again and we are independent of any motion picture studio. Now, we feel we have the independence in our partnership with Reliance,” Spielberg said.

Some of the films that will be produced first include “39 Clues”, “Cowboys and Aliens”, “Dinner For Schmucks”, “Motorcade” and “Hereafter” in a mix of genres including thrillers, action, comedy and family drama.

Ambani also announced that his associate Amitabh Jhunjhunwala and Spielberg’s partner for decades Stacey Snider, who has been associated with projects like “Eric Brockovich”, “The Mummy” and “American Pie”, would also serve on the Dreamworks board.

He said even though Reliance Big was a private enterprise, he was not averse to listing it on the capital markets at an appropriate time. “All our options are open.”

The noted industrialist also saw a tremendous growth for the cinema business in India, and said that compared with the US, while thrice as many people watched cinema in the country, the box office collection was just one percent.

The Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group ranks among India’s top three industrial houses with interests in areas including telecommunications, energy, finance, entertainment and infrastructure development.

The group’s entertainment business owns 428 cinema screens across India, the US, Malaysia and Mauritius, contributing 11 percent to the domesticindustry’s box office collections and 35 percent from the Hindi movies screened in the US.

Its entertainment business has its presence across several platforms, including FM radio, music, sports, gaming, animation, Internet and mobile portals, direct-to-home TV, Internet TV and mobile TV.

Last year, it also entered into pacts to develop Hollywood projects with firms of such stars as Brad Pitt, Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Nicolas Cage, Jim Carrey and George Clooney.

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