The international film business shifted gears when Anil Ambani’s Reliance Big Entertainment acquired a majority shareholding position in Stuart Ford’s L.A. and London-based sales and financing company IM Global (founded in 2007) last month. Reliance has already invested US$500 million in DreamWorks which allowed that company to move on its own current slate. Now RBP is working on several new projects from its Hollywood alliances, Jim Carry’s Saturn Films, George Clooney’s Smokehouse Productions, Chris Columbus’ 1492 Pictures, Tom Hanks’ Playtone, Brad Pitt’s Plan B, Jay Roach’s Everyman Pictures, Brett Ratner’s Rat Entertainment, Julia Roberts’ Red Om Films and Brian Glazer and Ron Howards’ Imagine Entertainment. Sounds like they are replacing the major studios for development deals and going at investing in Hollywood in the best possible way. And reaching into the U.K. the new entity will be financing DNA Films’ 3D movie Judge Dredd as well.
The Reliance deal catapults them into the elite space occupied by Summit and Mandate previously. IM Global and RBP had been working together before with IM Global handling sales on a number of Reliance’s Hindi titles at the EFM in Berlin earlier this year. This development allows Ford to expand the company, which in April hired three top international sales executives led by the arrival of former Lakeshore sales chief Jonathan Deckter who became president of sales and distribution. Ford has also hired in former QED International sales executive Tatyana Joffe to head up the Octane genre label as senior vice-president of international sales, and former T&C Pictures International chief David Jourdan, who will oversee the new world cinema division as senior vice-president of international sales. Joffe and Jourdan, along with London-based executive vice-president of sales and distribution Tim Grohne and LA-based executive vice-president of sales and distribution Ruzanna Kegeyan, will all report to Deckter who plans to deliver A-level theatrical product, targeted genre movies and auteur-driven films to IM Global’s top tier clients all over the world and being a conduit for their ever expanding producing partners. IM Global has five major divisions: IM Global Opus (their main theatrical arm), IM Global Acclaim, IM Global Anthem, IM Global Octane and IM Global Apsara. The company has already expanded into pan Asian distribution with its Apsara distribution label which picked up several titles in Cannes for India, China, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and other Asian territories.
Brian Kavanaugh-Jones also left CAA where he was a film financing expert to run a new company IM Global has set up as a production joint venture with Alliance Communications, accessing Canada’s numerous co-production treaties.
This also brings Reliance into Hollywood and the worldwide film community in the best way and allows IM Global to focus on financing of top tier English language fare and to make selective rights acquisitions for India and other Asian markets.
Ford said. “When added to our existing stalwarts like Tim and Ruzanna we now have the strongest sales team in the business, collectively fronting as diverse and impressive a slate of films as any company in the overseas marketplace…The top tier of the sales agency business is essentially dominated by boutique operations,” Ford added. “But we have an infrastructure and revenue model that allows us to operate a more expansive platform and which embraces the passion that myself and this highly experienced team shares for a diverse array of top level movies. We are an international film company in the truest sense of the word.”
BTW, Raavan’s director Mani Ratnam will receive Venice Film Festival’s Glory to the Filmmaker Award this year at the Venice Film Festival. And Reliance recently also sold U.S. remake rights to Bollywood hit Johnny Gaddaar to L.A. producer-distributor Ray Haboush‘s Automatic Media, opening the possibility of finding new ways of retellng popular stories. Hollywood is going to get very busy once again, pulling itself out of a slumber which invariably overtakes it when it becomes too sated and too home grown. It is always the new waves of immigration which reinvigorate Hollywood. Last time was the 80s when the New Yorkers came in and changed the face of independent film in Hollywood. This time it’s the Indians who have come. To think Columbus thought he was going to them, and instead, they have come to us! Welcome!
The IM Global Cannes slate included Oren Peli’s Paranormal Activity follow-up Area 51 which sold to Paramount for North America; the shark action title Dark Tide starring Halle Berry; comedy Everything Must Go with Will Ferrell; and the horror film Astral from Saw director James Wan. Some of their Cannes sales are listed below.
IM Global licensed Skyline to Relativity Media and Universal for U.S. and to Wild Bunch for Germany, Momentum for U.K., SND for France, Eagle for Italy, Hopscotch for Australia, Splendid for Benelux, Vision for Poland, Nordisk for Scandinavia, CP for Russia, Korea Screen for So. Korea and Playarte for Latin America. Big Picture Reliance film Kites starring India’s Hrithink Roshan and Mexico’s Barbara Mori went to Optimum for DVD and TV in the U.K. while Reliance handles theatrical, Rapid Eye for Germany and Austria, Svensk for Scandinavia and Canal + for France, Icon for Australia/ N.Z., Pathe for Benelux, Impulse for Switzerland, MediaPro for Eastern Europe, Cinemax forCIS, Swen for Latin America, Forum for Israel and Nu Metro for South Africa, Gulf/ Al Nasr for the Middle East, Asian territories including City Entertainers for Hong Kong, Philippines, and Thailand; Studio Solutions Group for Taiwan; PT Amero for Indonesia, and Antenna Entertainment for Malaysia and Singapore. All the distributors acquired both versions of the film: Kites – The Remix, edited by Brett Ratner, and the original Hindi version. Deals had already been concluded before the market in traditional Bollywood territories such as Mauritius, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Middle East. Safe went to E1 for Benelux. Reliance Big Pictures’ Raavan collected 530 million rupees (US$11.7 million) from its three language versions during its June 18 opening, on 2,200 screens worldwide. Produced by Ratnam’s Madras Talkies, Reliance and IM Global, the film is set for a worldwide release in 58 countries on June 18. Icon has Australia rights, Nu Metro has South Africa and Gulf/ Al Nasr has the Middle East. It is also being set up with with big European companies like Studio Canal (France), Optimum (U.K. DVD and TV while Reliance handles theatrical) and Svensk (Scandinavia).
IM Global has sold out all three RBP films in “traditional” territories. Kinowelt acquired The Apparition and The Factory for German speaking territories. Area 51 went to Paramount for North America, Concorde TMG for German speaking territories, Euro TV for TV in France, Gulf Film for the UAE, Momentum Pictures, PlayArte Filmes for Brazil, RCV Film Distribution for Benelux, Svensk Filmindustri for Scandinavia,Village Roadshow Entertainment for Australia, Village Roadshow for Greece, Zelta for Spain, IPA Asia Pacific for Vietnam, Thailand, Teleview International for the Middle East. Dark Tide sold to DeA Planeta for Spain, Andrea Leone Films for Italy, Cinesky for worldwide airlnes, Gulf Films for the Middle East, Multivision Multimedia India for India, Square One Entertainment for Germany, Studio Solutions for Taiwan, Swen Entertainment for Mexico, TMC Film for Turkey, VVS Films for Canada, Village Roadshow for Greece, Warner Bros. for the Czech Republic and Poland.