In March, acclaimed Director Steven Spielberg was in India for the first time since he shot a segment of Close Encounters of The Third Kind in the country. Spielberg’s Dreamworks studio already has a $300 million investment from Reliance Entertainment based in India’s movie capital, Mumbai.
While in Mumbai, Spielberg, who was accompanied by his wife Kate Capshaw, announced that Dreamworks and Reliance have decided to create a new movie to be shot in scenic Kashmir near the troubled India-Pakistan border.
In other news, Oscar winning El Segundo special effects company Rhythm & Hues, Inc. was bought by India’s Prana Studios. Earlier Mumbai-based Prime Focus acquired Frantic Films VFX.
April 25, 2013 No Comments
Former Miss India Tina (Munim) Ambani and her husband, billionaire Anil Ambani were in town for the Oscars. Ambani invested $300 million for joint control of Steven Spielberg’s Dreamworks Pictures, in a process that started in 2008. The first products from this partnership hit theaters in 2011.
Octavia Spencer won the Oscar for best supporting actress for her performance in The Help which was funded by Dreamworks since the Reliance investment.
Two other Reliance DreamWorks titles — War Horse and Real Steel — were nominated. War Horse and The Help were in the fray for the best film award, which went to black and white silent film The Artist. War Horse was also nominated for sound editing, sound mixing, original score, art direction and cinematography. The Help, featured in the nomination line-up for best actress ( Viola Davis) and best supporting actress (Jessica Chastain and Spencer) Hugh Jackman-starrer sci-fi thriller Real Steel was on the list for best achievement in visual effects.
March 5, 2012 No Comments
The Hollywood Reporter says that Lucknow, India based Sahara India Pariwar, may be ready to bid for Leo, the Lion and his MGM Entertainment. The Wall Street Journal reports that the bid for the studios that owns the James Bond franchise, (and precious little else) may be as high as $2 billion.
Bloomberg News reported that the Broccoli family, producers of the James Bond movies and co-owners of the franchise with MGM are involved and that Barbara Broccoli and her stepbrother Michael G. Wilson would receive an undisclosed equity stake in MGM if the Sahara deal goes through,
This would be a crazy decision for Sahara, led by Subrata Roy, in my view. MGM has been bought and sold too many times for any Hollywood-watcher to believe there is anything left but debt. Billionaire Kirk Kirkorian milked so much value out of the company when he bought and sold it three (or was it four, I lost count!) times.
When Anil Ambani agreed to invest in Dreamworks and take it private, in collobarations with Steven Spielberg, I praised the decision here and in the Los Angeles Times as well as in the Hollywood REporter. Spielberg has a future. But the future of James Bond is more than overshadowed by the $4 billion debt accumulated at MGM. They need a sucker not an investor. I hope they find one outside of India.
Else it may be time to let Leo the Lion become a Hollywood memory forever. The musical format of Bollywood movies was hugely influenced by the grand epics produced on the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer lot in Culver City in the 1940s and 1950s. So in a sense Leo already survives in Mumbai and the ghost of Sam Goldwyn must be smiling to watch the story unfold.
September 24, 2010 No Comments
Anil Ambani and his $42 billion fortune are looking to make their mark in Hollywood. Negotiations are under way between Anil and legendary director Steven Spielberg to provide $600 million in equity, enough to let DreamWorks separate from parent Paramount Pictures (a Viacom entity). But Anil’s Hollywood aspirations don’t stop there, he’s also buying up theaters, signing deals with powerhouse actors, and plans on funding major American motion pictures in the near future.
When elephants start to mate, the world pays attention. No, I am not talking about the Paramount Pictures parody, The Love Guru, although there is some of that (elephant mating, I mean) in the Mike Myers flop that released last month. I refer to the possible deal between Hollywood’s sixty-one year old legendary movie director, Steven Spielberg and the billionaire husband of a former Bollywood film star, a man barely known in America until last month, Anil Ambani.
Apparently Ambani’s company will provide Mr. Spielberg and friends at Dreamworks with up to $600 million in equity; this will enable Dreamworks SKG, to separate itself from Viacom’s Paramount Pictures. Not to mention from the phallic comedic sense of Mike Myers. Someone on the inside leaked news about the half-billion dollar agreement in progress to the Wall Street Journal and Ambani and his team are under the spotlight sooner than they might have preferred; this will certainly affect the tenor of the negotiations and could even jeopardize their successful conclusion. Welcome to negotiation, Hollywood style Mr. Ambani!
Is Ambani yet another star-struck rich man about to be seduced by the glamour of the world’s most powerful entertainment industry? After all, Matsushita of Japan tried this with little success when it invested $6 billion into Universal Pictures. Sony Corp of Japan, Seagram’s of Canada and Vivendi SA of France have had their own challenges as they have attempted to play in Hollywood but things haven’t gone according to the script that they preferred. But Ambani is different and determined. He has a plan of which Spielberg and friends are only a part. An important, but not crucial part.
Ambani’s entry to Hollywood is better compared with Australian-born Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corp which owns the Fox film and television properties. , now a US citizen, is probably the most successful foreigner to enter Hollywood. The 77-year old Murdoch is worth about $9 billion according to Forbes, less than a fourth of the 49-year old Indian. Murdoch’s initial success was rooted in a relatively ancient medium, print media. But Ambani has backed into films from the more modern medium of wireless telephony. Murdoch
Just who is Anil Ambani? Worth at least $42 billion, the Wharton MBA is on a roll this past year via his Reliance ADAG Group. (His estranged brother Mukesh Ambani, runs Reliance Industries Limited, a petrochemicals giant). His Reliance Power is developing 13 large fossil fuel power plants in India, the first of which is a 4,000 megawatt behemoth expected to come online by 2013. Ambani’s team won the project after a prolonged battle that ended last August; the company raised a record $3 billion on the Bombay Stock exchange in February. Most American’s don’t realize it, but Ambani has over a million customers in the United States, mostly from ethnic Indians who use Reliance India Call to make telephone calls to India. In fact, most of Ambani’s wealth resides in Reliance Telecommunications, India’s second largest cellular phone company. The world’s largest private undersea cable system, Flag Telecom Ltd, is also a part of this empire and is currently laying another 30,000 miles of cable in a $1.5 billion expansion.
Multi-tasking is in the blood of this younger son of India’s most legendary self-made billionaire, the late Dhirubhai Ambani. Even while one of teams discusses the possible exit of Spielberg, Stacy Snider, and others from Viacom/Paramount, there is another team working on a much bigger deal in South Africa. Reliance Telecommunications recently displaced its larger Indian competitor, Bharti Airtel, in merger discussions with South Africa’s MTN Group in a bid to create a unit that would have more subscribers than AT&T Wireless, the largest American cellular provider.
BIG plans in entertainment
Growing up in Mumbai (then called Bombay) Anil was attracted to the world’s most prolific movie industry, commonly referred to as Bollywood. He married Tina Munim, who had starred in over 30 movies, several opposite India’s leading male stars of the time. While Munim does not play an active role in the business, she did go to college in California, and like her husband, has some understanding of the American mind-set. A vegetarian and a teetotaler, Ambani sleeps just five hours a day and spend at about two hours exercising and practicing yoga.
While he has run the Mumbai Marathon, Ambani in 2008 seems more like a sprinter.
Three years earlier, Ambani acquired control of one of India’s largest publicly held entertainment companies, Adlabs Films which had interests in film processing, production, exhibition & digital cinema. American investors might have noticed that New York based billionaire George Soros invested $100 million for a 3 percent stake in Reliance Entertainment in February this year. Since Soros’s investment, Reliance Entertainment rapidly bought up over 200 movie theaters in two dozen American cities, as reported by Business Week in April. The theaters and indeed the rest of the company are being rebranded as Reliance BIG Entertainment.
At the Cannes Film Festival last month, Ambani’s team announced that they planned to invest $1 billion into filmed entertainment in India over the next 12-15 months. The chairman of Reliance Entertainment, Amit Khanna, revealed Ambani’s ambitions when he said “We believe we are creating 21st century’s truly integrated media and entertainment company.” And sure enough the BIG team made another announcement at Cannes shortly: heavyweights Nicolas Cage, Jim Carrey, George Clooney, Tom Hanks and Brad Pitt had each signed separate deals with Reliance to develop a total of as many as 30 scripts which would lead to ten Hollywood movies eventually.
Make no mistake; Anil Ambani aspires to displace Rupert Murdoch in Hollywood. With or without the Dreamworks deal.
July 14, 2008 No Comments