Sunday, September 21, 2008

Anil Ambani group, Spielberg to set up $1.5 billion studio

India's Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group and celebrated filmmaker Steven Spielberg are setting up a new studio in Los Angeles under a $1.5-billion project that will make films for global audiences, sources familiar with the negotiations said Saturday. The mega deal - which will help Spielberg break away from DreamWorks, now owned by Viacom's Paramount Pictures - will be funded by a mix of equity and debt, and also involve leading investment banker JP Morgan Chase, the sources added. As a combination, Spielberg and Snider are regarded as the most successful filmmaking duo in history. DreamWorks was formed with much fanfare in 1994. But after an uneven run, it was sold to Viacom'a Paramount in 2006 for $1.6 billion. Since then, Spielberg and his team were eager to part ways with Paramount. According to sources, the Anil Ambani group and Spielberg decided to join hands both for the financial stability of their new venture and convergence of their ideas for the world of media and entertainment. Ambani's Reliance Big Entertainment had announced in Cannes in May that it would make a major foray into Hollywood and develop projects in partnership with some best-known actors like Brad Pitt, Tom Hanks, Nicolas Cage, Jim Carrey and George Clooney. This marked the biggest foray of an Indian entity in Hollywood's motion picture industry. Thirty films are likely to emanate from Reliance's co-financing and 10 will go into production soon, company officials had said. The entertainment business of the Anil Ambani group has interests in movies, FM radio, music, sports, gaming, Internet and mobile portals, direct-to-home TV, Internet TV and Mobile TV. The group, which also has a major presence in mobile telecom, financial services and energy sectors, had acquired in 2005 Adlabs Films Ltd, one of India's the largest entertainment companies with interests in film processing, production, exhibition and digital cinema. The group recently acquired 250 screens in US and 51 screens in Malaysia. Paramount, meanwhile, said it will not delay matters for Spielberg and his team, including DreamWorks partner David Geffen and chief executive Snider, in forging the pact with the Indian group.

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