The UTV Group, with interests in motion pictures, television, new media and broadcasting, is now bringing international films to Indian theatres. The company’s international cinema TV channel, UTV World Movies, has forayed into the theatrical space with the acquisition of a slate of movies including Waltz with Bashir, for which it has acquired rights for the South Asia region (India and SAARC).
In an interview with Bollywood Hungama, Sameer Ganapathy, Senior Vice President (Distribution), UTV Global Broadcasting, shares UTV’s idea of the space and how it plans to bring audiences to the theatres.
When is Waltz with Bashir releasing?
In the middle August, in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore. Apart from Waltz, we will also releasing Song of Sparrows by Majid Majidi and a French action film called I Always Wanted to Be a Gangster. In fact, we’ll be releasing around 12 movies between now and March 2010. These come from diverse genres.
We have tied up with the PVR chain of multiplexes and will begin with releases in the top three metros and expand to as many as 10 metros in the next six months.
What is the company’s investment in this venture?
I would not want to comment on the exact investment, but we have, on an average, acquired the theatrical, satellite, home video and other ancillary rights for a period of 5 years and thus the amount of investment is significant.
Do you think Indian audience mature enough for international content?
See, there is a latent demand for such kind of cinema. Waltz is not another casual animation film, it’s about the riots during the 1982 Lebanon war and the director’s personal experiences of the same.
As far as the number of screens is concerned, that is still being worked out. As you are aware there is a huge backlog of films up for release due to the recent producer-multiplexes strike. But we are looking at an optimum scale through which we can do justice to our films. So it will not be a one show in a week…
What are the reasons behind the foray?
We launched UTV World Movies in February 2008, amassing together a library of the best of movies from across the globe. We identified the need for good cinema from all across the globe and as long as the story is compelling and format is good, language is not the barrier.
To cater to every vertical, we announced our home video venture with Shemaroo and have so far released eight home video titles, with plans to release about 35 more titles by the end of the financial year. The last leg (in the business) is the theatrical. We are confident that the kind of movies we have should do well on the big screen also.
What does UTV have in its kitty for the discerning audience?
We are looking at commercial successes from across all genres. Waltz stands out as it has won many awards including the Golden Globe in the best foreign language film category. We actually acquired the film last year much before the awards, as we saw potential in the content.
Besides that, we have a very recent library. A bulk of our movies are post-2003. There are movies in the action, thriller, mystery, drama and animation genres. In fact, 5-7 % of our library is in the animation genre. We buy from 40 countries outside of India including French, Russian, Greek, Spanish, Cantonese and Mandarin movies.
Do you have any plans of monetizing these properties on the gaming platform?
We want to do justice to the existing verticals first. If the potential does exist, we will look at other verticals like gaming also. But currently we will restrict ourselves to theatrical, home video and television.
How are you going to scale up the operations?
There is going to be a very strong network push on the marketing initiative. There already are a lot of both above the line and below the line activation programs that are being created. There will also be on-air and print campaigns which will take off once the release dates are finalized.
What are your views on other players in the space like NDTV Lumiere?
Lumiere is already in the same space. But there is enough international content and as long as it helps to populate the space, it will only broaden and expand the base of world cinema in India and make it a viable venture for all involved.