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Disney label brings foreign pix to U.S.

Banner to offer DVD, VOD; downloads possible, too

Disney is planning a new banner to distribute Walt Disney Studios Intl. Prods. films in the U.S., offering DVD, VOD and possibly digital downloads of pics developed locally for territories such as China, Russia and India.

Similar to the Fox World Cinema label (Daily Variety, May 6), the new venture would offer limited U.S. theatrical platform releases for select titles, as Disney did with the recent rollout of its Indian action-adventure feature “Zokkomon” following the pic’s bow at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles.

Program, whose launch is expected in the next few months, will brand and expand the retail reach of titles in the U.S. marketplace, and the number of Disney overseas productions will likely increase. Early last year, Disney named Jason Reed to head the Intl. Prods. arm as exec VP and general manager, with a mission to expand the division’s slate.

The Mouse House, for example, plans to release about three films per year in India, representing a “mix of big and small Disney-brandedbranded product,” Reed said at a CinemaCon panel in March.

“You never really understand how a territory works until you’re on the ground talking with the filmmakers,” Reed added.

Disney isn’t currently planning to acquire foreign films for the banner, but pickups may eventually be incorporated under the as-yet-unnamed label to capitalize on its expected retail presence.

Disney’s goal is to find local, “magical” stories that fit its brand and have appeal for specific foreign audiences. Over the past few years, the Intl. Prods. arm has produced or co-produced numerous local-language titles, including “The Secret of the Magic Gourd” in China, “Roadside Romeo” in India and “The Book of Masters” in Russia. Studio has also been ramping up its efforts in the Middle East, especially in countries like Israel and Jordan, where the studio produced an inspirational sports pic, Reed said.

Initial efforts were part of Disney head Robert Iger’s mandate to provide product for its many international distribution outlets. The new initiative aims to bring overseas stories to domestic niche auds and explore the breakout potential of projects that may have cross-cultural appeal.

News follows last week’s announcement of the Fox World Cinema label, launching later this year from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. That banner will provide DVD, VOD, digital download and select theatrical distribution for Fox Intl. Productions titles and potential overseas acquisitions.

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