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Fox sets Asian movie venture

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When it comes to Hollywood, Asia isn’t just a destination for outsourcing. It’s a place to insource.

Yesterday 20th Century Fox became the latest major American studio to set up shop abroad, joining its fellow News Corp.-owned media company STAR to produce and distribute movies for Asian audiences in Asian languages.

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The new venture, Fox STAR Studios, will aim to be a “one-stop shop that encompasses film acquisition, development, marketing, production and distribution in India,” said newly appointed Chief Executive Vijay Singh in a statement. The efforts will later expand to China and Southeast Asia.

News Corp. has long had a foothold in the continent’s media field, having bought STAR — a television broadcaster and producer with holdings in film, cable systems, and wireless and digital services — more than a decade ago.

In May, Fox Filmed Entertainment, of which 20th Century Fox is a division, announced the launch of an international unit to expand the company’s production and distribution of local-language movies around the world.

Indeed, Hollywood is increasingly turning to Bollywood for partners in what it describes, in somewhat colonial sounding terms, as ‘indigenous productions.’

Last fall, Sony Pictures Entertainment released “Saawariya,” a Bollywood film it produced as part of a longer-term collaboration with the Indian media company Eros International. This fall, Walt Disney Co. is set to premiere “Roadside Romeo,” the first of a number of animated films it plans to make jointly with Mumbai-based Yash Raj Films.

And early next year, Warner Bros. Pictures plans to release “Chandni Chowk to China,” which has an appropriately globalized plot — an Indian cook from the eponymous poor Old Delhi neighborhood pretends to be a martial arts master.

Viacom Inc. and NBC Universal have also expressed interest in making movies in India, and have made inroads in other Indian media markets.

“We’ve seen a clear trend in Asia with the increasing prominence and market significance of local product,” said David Molner, managing director of Screen Capital International, a Beverly Hills media investment firm. “The management at Fox has fundamentally understood this.”

-- Swati Pandey


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