Sony's English movie channel Pix launching on 1 April

MUMBAI: Mad about the movies! There were hugs all around as Sony announced the launch of its new English movie channel Pix on 1 April. There to do the honours was Hollywood superstar Will Smith.

According to Sony CFO NP Singh, Pix will be a pay channel and internal discussions are still going on to decide its pricing. Queried whether Pix would be part of Sony's second bouquet or a new bouquet, Singh said the matter was still being debated.

What looks likely though, is that initially Sony will have to pay a carriage fee to the operators to ensure visibility. Set Pix, which promises to bring movies with captive story lines, targets young audiences below the age of 44 SEC A & B.

Says Pix business head Sunder Aaron, "As far as English films are concerned, while there are players that show the latest and the biggest, they miss a point. It is the human need for good stories, which is not being fulfilled. The aim of Pix will be to entertain with some of the best stories around both old and new."

As regards titles, Pix will have access to the Sony MGM library. It can acess big titles from MGM like the upcoming Bond film Casino Royale and the new Pink Panther movie.

However, first runs of the big new titles from the Sony Pictures stable will not be available to Pix. These movies remain locked with HBO by virtue of the four studio joint venture agreement that exists for the Asian region. Universal, Sony Pictures, Paramount and Time Warner all have an equal 25 per cent stake each in HBO Asia. Fox, Disney (Buena Vista International Television) and Dreamworks films, meanwhile, first air on Star Movies in India.

Queried on why he had chosen to launch the channel in India, Smith, who was in an exuberant mood, said, "I have had a relationship with Sony for many years which includes the Bad Boys and Men In Black films. My next film, The Pursuit of Happiness is also a Sony film. Additionally, the idea of a new channel that stays focussed on the story is very appealing.

"I am very much interested in Indian cinema and enjoyed Sarkar. When I first read that 800 films are made every year in India I thought that it must be a typing error. It is amazing how schedules are managed to create this output. I think that there is a marriage to be made between the colour and depth of storytelling of Bollywood with Hollywood."

"In the mid 1980s when technology started coming in it kind of took precedence over story telling. Now if you notice Americans have gone back to films that have strong stories. The big blockbusters are being rejected."

When asked whether he was looking at having a relationship with Bollywood, Smith reiterated that business comes after art. "First I need to make an artistic connection with the producer, director. Business will flow after that."

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