UTV establishes a worldwide distribution set up; launches movie studio model

MUMBAI: Bringing professionalism into industry, that is what UTV aspires to bring about. In a bid to bolster its strength as a production and distribution house, UTV is cultivating creative forces similar to those of a Miramax or a Fox Searchlight in the United States.

That apart, on the distribution front, it has already established a distribution set up oversees in New York, London, Singapore, Hong Kong and all of Europe. As for the balance of worldwide activity, it will be serviced from their Indian headquarters.

UTV has also announced the setting up of an all India National distribution network for simultaneous release across India, for which it will set up infrastructure in seven cities. UTV already has offices there. The production and distribution house is already in talks with a few theatre chains but UTV's general manager motion pictures Ram Mirchandani is loathe to let out the details.

The newly launched divisions of International Theatrical Distribution as well as All-India Theatrical Distribution and UTV heralds the blueprints of a new vertically integrated studio model for India. "People have just been talking about it but we have gone ahead and done that," claims Mirchandani.

While Sridhar Sreekakula heads the North American distribution and development activities Sanjeev Mehta has been appointed as to head the India Distribution Network.

The total team focusing on distribution will be approximately 20 worldwide supported by multiple partners of equal number. The company is alo looking at recruiting few more skilled people to form it's crack team.

Besides distributing movies co-produced by UTV, the company is also in talks with other production house for its distribution. The company will distribute Hyderabad Blues II.

On the content production front, UTV is all geared to release co-productionsLakshya directed by Farhan Akhtar and Swades co-production with Ashutosh Gowarikar in June and August respectively. UTV has also announced a package of 10 A-level Bollywood movies.

The company will be puting in investment of Rs 1 billion ($ 25 million) and is looking at rolling out the movies within a period of one and half years.

"We have a very well structured and low-risk, high-return model in place and our business mix for Motion Pictures. We are in a way insulating ourselves from the losses. By launching 10 movies, we calculate that even if for to five movies do a great business we will be ensuring profitable business," offers Mirchandani.

As for the co-production JV with Star, the first movies out of the deal Chandan Arora's yet-to-be-titled movie, will release in 2004, while the other four will be released within a years time thereafter.

"Our extensive production and financing experience over the last four years has given rise to an intuitive and in-depth knowledge of creating the right mixture for balancing Creative interests with those of producing commercial films that satisfy audiences worldwide," says Mirchandani.

UTV's Director line-up includes 

(a) a joint production with Ram Gopal Verma- D in December. 

(b) Prakash Jha - starting in early 2005 

(c) A to-be-announced project with David Dhawan 

(d) A two-movie deal with Vishal Bharadwaj

(e) Aatish Kapadia (who co-produces UTV's Khichdi ifor Star Plus) 

(f) Chandan Arora's next for JV with Star 

(g) Aparna Sen's next 

(h) Tigmanshu Dhulia's Dharti 

(i) Amitabh Bachchan and Madhuri starrer slated to be directed by Somnath Sen.

"We have a production pipeline of 5 to 6 movies a year and it's a natural process for us to be in control of our own destiny with our own worldwide Distribution in place, " offers UTV CEO Ronnie Screwvala in a company release.

"We can't really emerge as a true Studio Model unless we control our own Distribution. And within India, the artificial borders and territories have to disappear and National-level Distribution and Marketing needs to take place. This Minimum Guarantee Model that forces everyone to reach 'breakeven' before opening night has to disappear if transparency has to really arrive in the Indian theatrical business. It's a gradual process where one will ultimately yield to the other, " emphasises Screwvala.

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