India’s Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd. is poised to join the Hollywood majors and a handful of Indian studios that own and operate global movie distribution operations.
The objective of Zee Studios Intl. is to be able to handle day-and-date direct releasing in territories where there are major Indian diaspora audiences, and, at least initially, to license rights to third parties in other territories.
In Cannes as a seller for the first time this week, Zee pulled back the curtain on its new international sales business, headed by Shibani Kapur, an alumnus of Reliance ADAG’s Reliance Entertainment, and now chief revenue office for Zee Studios Intl.
Underlining the fresh start, Kapur and Zee’s newly restructured international TV operations are relocating from Mumbai, India, to Dubai in the Middle East. The first theatrical film distribution and marketing offices are currently being set up in London and the U.S.
Built up from a leading bouquet of TV channels that now have a worldwide footprint, the ZEEL corporation is already a giant within the Indian scene. It stretches from Bollywood film investment through to major events such as the annual Zee Awards. And in India.com, it also has a digital joint venture with Variety’s parent company, Penske Media Corp.
The sales and distribution operations kick off with a pair of titles acquired from Balaji Motion Pictures: “Flying Jatt,” a superhero movie directed by dance movie maestro Remo d’Souza, which stars Tiger Shroff, K.K. Menon, Jacqueline Fernandez and Nathan Jones; and “Half Girlfriend,” a romantic drama directed by Mohit Suri and starring Arjun Kapoor, Shraddha Kapoor. The film is adapted from a novel of the same title written by Chetan Bhagat, the novelist whose books were adapted into “3 Idiots,” “2 States.”
Zee Studios Intl. has also picked up Akshay Kumar vehicle “Rustom” and will expand its slate to four to six titles this year, with a larger lineup in future years.
“We can see a growing audience for Indian films around the world. The establishment of Zee Studios Intl. is recognition of that and a means for us to better control our rights,” said Kapur. “We can support the business with our channels.”
Kapur added: “In territories like Japan and Germany, where Indian films are already performing strongly, we are looking to expand on existing connections and develop long-term relationships with distributors. In other places like Turkey we will be more flexible, selling rights as appropriate.”