Duo to develop, produce Hindi titles

Sony Pictures Entertainment and leading Indian movie group Eros Intl. have struck a multipicture production and distribution deal that puts Sony at the front rank of the Hindi-language industry.

The two studios will develop, produce and acquire a slate of Hindi titles, with production costs shared equally. Pair expect to line up six to eight movies in the first year of the agreement. Financial commitment was not disclosed.

In a significant variation from previous Hollywood ventures into India, distribution will be shared. Sony Pictures will release some of the titles in North America, while Eros handles the rest of the world outside India. Within India the two will share rights, allowing both to expand their distribution capacity in the subcontinent.

“About two in five of what we produce will be Indian films for a world market, with the remainder Indian films for India and the Indian diaspora,” Eros’ London-based CEO Kishore Lulla told Daily Variety.

“This deal continues Sony Pictures’ dedication to the region as we embrace and support local talent and invest in films made specifically for audiences in India and the Indian diaspora,” said Sony Pictures chairman-CEO Michael Lynton.

Sony’s first Indian movie, “Saawariya,” helmed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, is set for release in November. Studio has a majority stake in one of India’s leading TV groups, Sony Entertainment Television. Sony and Eros have a rights sales joint venture in the U.K.

By agreeing to co-finance such a large package of movies and hitching with the market leader, Sony has kept itself a step ahead of other Hollywood congloms in the fast-developing Indian market. Warner Bros. recently put together its first Indian production, Nikhil Advani’s “Made in China.”

Disney has committed itself to an animated movie a year with powerful live-action producer Yash Raj Films, while Viacom is a co-investor in the Indian Film Co., an ambitious startup production venture with corporate partner Network 18 Group.

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