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Special effect?

Will Anil Ambani and Steven Spielberg come together? After having inked seven production deals with the who’s who of Hollywood in Cannes last month, Reliance Big Entertainment has emerged as Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks SKG’s principal new financier.

     Print Edition: July 13, 2008

Anil Ambani’s Reliance Big Entertainment (RBE) is all out to make its mark globally in the entertainment arena. After having inked seven production deals with the who’s who of Hollywood in Cannes last month, the company has emerged as Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks SKG’s principal new financier.

The company is reportedly in talks with DreamWorks to form a joint venture and is expected to pump close to $600 million for setting up a new venture with the Spielberg company. Apart from that, the new venture could raise another $500 million through debt financing. The move will allow DreamWorks to exit from Paramount Pictures later this year, according to US media reports. The proposed joint venture with RBE is expected to make six films a year.

DreamWorks’ Spielberg: He may find a big financier in Reliance Big Entertainment
Steven Spielberg
A spokesperson for RBE chose not to comment when contacted. Yet, it isn’t unlikely that a deal like this could happen. After all, RBE has had trysts with Hollywood before; it has tied up with stars like George Clooney, Nicholas Cage, Jim Carrey and Tom Hanks to work on low-cost, low-risk projects. The deal with DreamWorks could, however, be in a bigger league. RBE did its first major Hollywood deal in 2006 through group company Adlabs Films when it cut a fiveyear multi-picture deal with Ashok Amritraj’s Hyde Park Entertainment.

What’s more, in March RBE also bought up a bunch of US multiplexes in such Indian expatheavy markets as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington D.C.—giving it 250 screens in 28 North American cities. The venture has been dubbed Big Cinemas and is expected to programme a mix of Indian-produced pictures and Hollywood fare.

The strained relationship between David Geffen (one of the founders of DreamWorks), Steven Spielberg and Viacom’s Paramount has been in the open since Philippe Daumon, CEO, Viacom (which owns Paramount), said at a Goldman Sachs conference last September that the company was preparing for a future without the duo. The personal contracts that Geffen and Spielberg signed as a part of Viacom’s 2005 acquisition of DreamWorks expire at the end of 2008. Is Anil Ambani poised to step in?

Anusha Subramanian

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