Eased policies boost Indian market

Hollywood studios are bracing for record business in India in 1994 — thanks largely to relaxation of restrictive trade barriers.

Last year the Indian government liberalized import policy.

The new rules overturned decadelong barriers put up by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, which included cumbersome import selection panels and curbs on how much B.O. coin distribs could take out of the country.

Imports were rigidly allocated to member companies of the Motion Picture Assn. of America, the former Soviet Union’s Sovexport and other non-resident Indian companies.

Approved imports were processed by the National Film Development Corp. of India, and a fee of more than $ 325 per print was exacted.

The new policy permits free import of films and a simpler, speedier process under a single authority, the Central Board of Film Certification. Unlimited prints per film can be imported, vs. the previous limit of 15. Censorship restrictions also have been relaxed.

The floodgates opened to 115 eager applicants for import licenses in the last quarter of 1992, rising to 206 in ’93.

The four active Hollywood distribs in India — Fox, Warner Bros., Columbia and United Intl. Pictures — are poised to double their earnings in 1993-94 as the liberalization gains momentum. Disney pix have not been distributed in India since the studio ended its worldwide tie-in with Warner distribution.

The boom in satellite-delivered cable programming here is helping to whet the appetite of Indian audiences for U.S. and European films.

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