Shyam G. Menon

Mumbai, Feb. 27

The Export-Import Bank of India (Exim Bank) will invest $7 million in the proposed full-length animated feature film from Crest Animation Studios' 87 per cent US subsidiary, Rich Crest, and Lions Gate Entertainment.

The movie, meant for a global audience like any other Hollywood release, is a 50:50 co-production between the companies. They are also co-financing it.

Both partners will split equally the $20-million production budget with Exim Bank's contribution dovetailing into Rich Crest's share of funding.

The Indian partner will bring in the balance $3 million.

Besides the attraction of potential returns from a CGI film, Exim Bank's entry into the picture was helped by the presence of Lions Gate Entertainment as a film distributor. The presence was useful to finalise film completion bonds, which comfort banks. Institutional financiers like to ensure recovery and usually prefer to recover their money ahead of a film's commercial release. "This is a pretty good model," Mr Mathew John, General Manager, Exim Bank, said of the Rich Crest-Lions Gate project. Further, even as CGI films of the recent past have done well with some tasting huge box office success, a certain steadiness in supply has settled in.

The regular flow of CGI films has commensurately upped the risk level at the global box office, spawning a valid case for containing production costs. While creativity has always evaded measurement, for bankers, the emergent production cost concern at CGI films and the business shifts they bring, was quite up their alley. In the Rich Crest-Lions Gate co-production, pre- and post-production work would be done in the US, while the actual production work would be done at Crest Animation Studios in India.

For Exim Bank, this element of concrete arithmetic was a source of confidence to take a position on the $20-million initial project. The film currently funded is the first in a trio of such co-productions from Rich Crest-Lions Gate and the bank has the option of funding the other films as and when they come up.

Beginning April 2004, Exim Bank has invested around Rs 85 crore in various film projects, still a small amount compared to the Rs 13,000 crore it had committed overall by March-end 2005. It has funded mainstream Hindi films like

Hum Tum

,

Bunty aur Babli

and

Mangal Pandey - The Rising

.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated February 28, 2006)
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