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Big studios stitch deals for projects post pandemic

The recent partnering of Dharma Productions and Viacom18 Studios, and Reliance Entertainment and T-Series for movie slates, is the result of the pandemic, trade experts. The developments have come as studios look to control costs, attract top stars and invest in more large-scale projects that will draw audiences back to the theatres.

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These tie-ups are meant to capitalise on strengths of studios and bring them together as a powerhouse for both content and marketing.

“Collaboration and consolidation are the future and the need of the hour to hedge risks better and bring core competencies together for optimum monetization. The whole ecosystem, including audiences benefit if two entities come together to take greater risks for higher investment in large-scale projects that are meant for theatres,” film distributor and exhibitor Akshaye Rathi said.

Synergies and consolidation have already played out in other sectors, Rathi said, with the Vodafone Idea merger in 2018, or the more recent example of Amazon Prime Video bundling multiple OTT platforms to make them available on its website and app through Prime Video Channels.

In case of Reliance Entertainment, for example, trade experts point to the existing partnership with filmmaker Rohit Shetty that has resulted in blockbuster franchises such as Singham and Simmba which are not only coming together in upcoming Akshay Kumar-starrer Sooryavanshi to create a cop universe, like Hollywood’s Marvel Cinematic Universe model, but are also transitioning into animation and gaming IPs. T-Series, on the other hand, has marketing and monetary muscle thanks to its music catalogue.

Spokespersons of Reliance, T-Series, Dharma and Viacom18 did not respond to Mint’s queries on the idea behind forging these partnerships. But in an older joint statement, Reliance and T-Series, had said the two companies “will collaborate on more than 10 projects across genres with investments of nearly Rs1,000 crore and the titles (will) include big-budget tentpole films, as well as mid- and small-budget content-driven movies.”

Dharma that easily puts together star vehicles will benefit from Viacom’s distribution network, according to film trade experts, with the films also making their way to the company’s satellite channels for TV premiere afterwards.

“There’s a greater need for synergies right now. As we’re ready to take steps towards normalcy, synergies can ease creative challenges and budget complications. These partnerships (and resulting projects) will also bring relief to employees of the cinema sector and daily wage workers in the industry whose livelihood has been precarious. Plus, each of these companies has their trademark cinema aesthetic and it would be fascinating for the viewers to see them blend,” said producer Abhishek Pathak, managing director of Panorama Movies known for titles such as Khuda Hafiz and Drishyam.

Film producer, trade and exhibition expert Girish Johar said the pandemic hit the entertainment industry hard and partnerships are a good way to make the best of all that is available, at a time when funds are limited for many and there is a need to maintain strong balance sheets.

Entities gain better play in the theatrical market when together, Johar said, pointing to deals in Hollywood such as Lionsgate picking up a 20% stake in film production company Spyglass Media Group, LLC whose feature film library consists of approximately 200 titles including the latest instalment of horror franchise Scream and fashion competition series Project Runway, among others.

“There is a need for seamless collaboration amongst production houses especially post covid. This is not only happening due to cost cutting or budget-related matters but because it’s always better to share capital. Also, getting creative teams from different studios to work together helps amplify the vision of the director. That many new production houses are owned by Bollywood stars makes a substantial difference in terms of getting the right talent to be featured in any film,” Anant Roongta, managing director at production and distribution house Famous Studios said. Live Mint

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