Thursday, May 06, 2010

Namaste Cannes, nous somme Reliance

Reliance MediaWorks will have a major presence at this year's Cannes Film Festival for the first time ever. Not content with hanging out in the Indian pavillion, walking up and down the Croisette or shuffling aimlessly around the Palaise, we have taken over a large suite overlooking both the Croisette and Palaise where we will be showcasing some of the amazing things that RMW offers its film and media clients, such as restoration, image processing and 2D-to-3D conversion. We will be doing one-on-ones with journalists, film makers and other movers and shakers attending. We are also thrilled to have one of the films we did restoration on (Khandahar) is playing as part of the festival.

All of this was deemed significantly important for Screen International to do a major write up on us:

Reliance MediaWorks Ltd., the services company of the Reliance ADA group, will be in Cannes to host an open house each day for the industry. Industry members can drop in any time to the Reliance office (Relais de la Reine, 42/43 La Croisette, Suite C-61) to learn more about the services offered by RMW. Special press and group demonstrations will be held Wednesday 3-5, Thursday 12-2, Friday 3-5, Saturday 3-5, Sunday 12-2, and Monday 12-2pm.

Anil Arjun, CEO of Reliance MediaWorks, tells Screen: “What we plan to do really do a preview show, is to show showcase of MediaWorks capabilities in the global space. We wanted to do an open house, encouraging the industry to interact with our team there.”

Some of the senior executives from RMW will be attending Cannes. Reliance the parent company has had a strong presence in Cannes in previous years, but this is the first year that MediaWorks has a presence this large.

So now you also know where to find us. Do stop by and visit us - just look for the big banner that says Reliance MediaWorks, together with our partners In-Three.

Reliance Big Entertainment has had a significant presence there in past years, using the festival as its launch pad for major Bollywood and hollywood projects. But, no , we definitely can't get your script to Steven Spielberg. Yes, he has a deal with Reliance ADAG, but I very much doubt that he will stop by our suite as he is busy preparing for his next film with DreamWorks.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

I've been promoted to Head of Strategy - awsome!

I'm taking a break from my blogging break to share with you the news that I've been promoted to Head of Strategy for film & media services global - something that I'm both thrilled about and humbled by - here at Reliance MediaWorks.

I started out as a consultant to Adlabs (as it was known back then) back in October 2007 to set up the company's digital cinema operation (mastering, cinema deployment and connectivity) and six months later became a full time employee, heading up the digital cinema department as COO. It was a tremendous learning process and experience, effectively bringing DCI-grade digital cinema to the world's largest film and cinema market with the country's leading company - largest lab, largest cinema chain, largest-you-name-it.

Thanks to a great team and a visionary and supportive management we pioneered everything from an Indian VPF model, 2K and 4K technology and FACT/MPAA-grade security to 3D and optical fibre delivery in India and to US. We have done hundreds of films and are now the preferred and trusted partner of both Indian studios as well as Hollywood studios working in India. This operation now largely runs itself with little requirement for me to handle day-to-day business, which is also why it is being integrated with our film lab and DI operation, to give our clients a more seamless end-to-end service proposition.

In the meantime, I had become closely involved in several of our new services ventures and international expansions, including the acquisition of Lowry Digital, the partnership with In-Three and the setting up of a London base, as well as pushing the boundaries of what we can do with our global fibre optic delivery network. Again, none of this I did myself or single handed, but by working together with my Reliance colleagues and industry contacts.

It is said that 'luck' is 'preparation' meets 'opportunity', which is why I feel that I've been lucky in that my years at Screen Digest, Unique and Deluxe were the best possible preparation for the opportunity that the transformation of India into a major global power, including the 'soft power' of film and media, represents. Tectonic plates are shifting when it comes to the global film, television, on-line and mobile media market today and India's impact will be no lesser than when the Indian subcontinent crashed into the Euro-Asian continent and threw up the Himalayas.

So where does Reliance MediaWorks go from here and what the hell will I contribute to that? Obviously we are getting into the tricky "forward looking statements" territory that all publicly listed companies have to tread carefully around. But we have already demonstrated the are building to scale in India to support unique skills and services world wide. We never take the "me-too" approach to anything we do, but focus on 'next generation' services and how to do things differently or better than anybody else. Rest assured that we will continue pushing the boundaries, to implement projects that would daunt others with the sheer size, continue focusing on cutting edge technologies and proprietary solutions developed by ourselves and work every day to earn the trust and business of our industry client, creatives, customers, studios and partners. Drop me a line or give me a call.

See you next at the Cannes Film Festival, where we will have a major presence, showcasing just a few of the many things we do.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Reliance partners In-Three for world's largest 2D-to-3D conversion operation

More than five years ago I was at ShoWest 2004 in Las Vegas when a contact told me about a secret demo that was taking place, away from the cinema trade show itself, in a hotel room in Flamingo. "These guys have converted regular films to 3D," I was told breathlessly. I managed to secure an invite and was escorted into a mid-size hotel room with an oversized 2K projector taking up most of the space, as well as a few chairs and a screen.

I had been covering the digital cinema the industry long enough to have developed a healthy skepticism toward tall new claims, but what I saw that night blew me away: 3D clips of films such as "2001: A Space Odyssey", "12 Angry Men", "Casablanca", the original "Star Wars" and many more classics. And they all - worked. The 3D did not look fake, gimmicky or tacky in a 'colorization' sort of way. It looked as if the director had intended the film to be stereoscopic in the first place and I found myself wanting to watch the films again, this time in 3D. That was my first introduction to In-Three. I could not write about it in my E-Cinema Alert newsletter, but I knew that the company was onto something great.

Fast forward three and a half years and I'm having dinner at an Indonesian restaurant in Amsterdam during IBC 2007 with my friend and mentor Richard Wolfe, where he also invited and introduced me to Neil Feldman, the CEO of In-Three. The digital cinema deployment was spluttering, the 3D deployments were just starting and "Avatar" was in the early pre-production stages.

Neil told me more about In-Three, the Dimensionalization(R) process and projects they had worked on and were in the pipeline. I also realized that Neil stood out as one of the sharpest and most visionary business men - in an industry that is not exactly short of that type - while also having a tremendous amount of warmth and generosity of spirit. A rare combination. While In-Three had not yet come out with its first full-length feature film, it made me appreciate that Neil and In-Three were in this for the long haul, something that was confirmed when I subsequently got to visit his facility in Westlake Village, around the time that we acquired Lowry Digital, and saw some of the latest footage and examples of their work.

It is thus with tremendous excitement that I can finally share the news that Reliance MediaWorks is partnering In-Three to create the world's largest 2D-to-3D conversion facility, right here in Mumabi, able to cater to 15-25 projects per year, once it is fully up and running. Making this possible was a true team effort on both our side and In-Three's side. You can read more about it in this article from Wall Street Journal:
Indian conglomerate Reliance ADA Group is partnering with a Los Angeles company to produce 3-D movies out of a new 1,000-person facility in Mumbai that will be the largest of its kind in the world.

Reliance and In-Three Inc. will convert 15 to 25 feature films per year from regular two-dimensional format to 3-D, the companies say. Reliance's planned $40 million facility, which is scheduled to open in January, will house the 3-D operations along with other film services it already provides, such as post-production, visual effects and restoration of classics.

But even more depth is provided (as so often) by Carolyn Giardina in The Hollywood Reporter:
"We feel next year is going to a big year for 3D for theaters and the home," said Neil Feldman, CEO of In-Three, which recently worked on Disney's 3D "G-Force." "We anticipate such a large volume of work that we need capacity, and that is where Reliance comes in. We are setting this up in advance."

Slated to launch in February, the operation intends to hire hundreds of employees -- possibly as many as 600 -- during its first year. They will be trained and equipped to handle 15-25 feature film projects a year. Further out, the companies expect the staff to number in the thousands.

The companies said that work on the first joint title will commence early next year, with several more projects planned for a start in the year's first half. Titles were not disclosed.

The number of 3D cinema screens worldwide recently topped 6,000, and the transition continues to move forward albeit at a slower pace than many had hoped. It is expected that the first projects from the facility will include new features and legacy titles as well as theatrical commercials.
There has also been coverage in the Economic Times and Reuters, with more set to follow no doubt. And if you have not seen it already, make sure to watch Disney/Bruckheimer's "G-Force" to appreciate the power of 2D-to-3D conversion and why In-Three stands head and shoulders above all other companies in this field. Watch this space for future fruits of our joint labour.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Our finances are looking up

Reliance MediaWorks still turned a small loss for the most recent quarter, but a significant improvement on the previous quarter and the outlook is very rosy, as this interview in ET with our CEO Anil Arjun makes clear. Some key stats:
How would the remainder of the year pan out for entertainment players?

You have to look at it in perspective. When we spoke about it last quarter I talked about the resolutions of the issues; we have seen an 80% growth in this quarter in terms of our topline itself. Now if I look at the market performance in terms of the box-office, like I said, it has been a 20% growth in terms of box-office. What is important is that the realisation per film has increased by about 38%. If you look at numbers like for instance the wide release films, which are about the 500 print release, it has been about a 68% increase in topline.

You are still at a net loss level of about Rs 11 crore, while revenues have jumped. When do you start to see the bottomline becoming profitable?

We have seen a major improvement between Q1 and Q2, in fact our EBITDA from operations was a minus Rs 9 crore in Q1, and it has grown to Rs 35 crore in Q2; our loss was about Rs 65 crore and it is now down to Rs 11 crore. A lot of that has been attributed to the depreciation in the interest cost because we went through a very large capital expansion in the past one year. I see a lot of gain flowing from Q3 onwards. Clearly by the third-fourth quarters will reflect positively on our topline and bottomline.
The war chest of INR 600 Cr (US$ 130m) will enable us to do some spectacular thing in the second half of this financial year. Stay tuned for details.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Apparently we are the 25th biggest cinema chain in the US

A good article from the LA Times that gives an overview of our cinema chain in the US. There is even mention of what we are doing on the digital front:
Seeking to upgrade the experience and the environment, Big Cinemas is spending $12 million to renovate theaters -- many of which it acquired from mom-and-pop operators -- with new digital projectors and sound systems, computerized accounting controls, stadium seating and concession stands serving Indian food.

...

Reliance reached out to Indian film distributors, offering to act as a "one-stop shop" to deliver their movies across the U.S. via a company-owned fiber-optic network that pipes films directly from Mumbai to New York. That assures quicker and cheaper distribution than in the past, when canisters of film would have to be flown in and could get held up in customs, causing costly delays.
The Hindi films are subtitles, so any of you non-Indians out there tempted by this, go and have a visit and see it for yourself. You can say that 'Patrick sent me" - but that won't qualify you for a free mango lassi drink or samosa. Just admire the digital picture.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Adlabs set to become Reliance MediaWorks


It was announced today that Adlabs Film is changing names and becoming Reliance MediaWorks.

The new moniker makes sense as not only do we not just do ad-films, which is how the name came about 30-odd years ago, but since Manmohan Shetty sold the business to Reliance ADAG we have grown significantly and expanded into many new areas of business. Here is how the Business Standard covered the news:
Adlabs Films, India's leading film and media services company, and a member of the Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, announched that it proposes to change its name to Reliance MediaWorks Limited, subject to shareholders and other requisite approvals.

For the year ended March 31, 2009, the Company delivered total revenues of Rs. 733 crores ($152 million), reflecting a Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 80 per cent in the last three years.

The original name, Adlabs Films, was reflective of the company’s initial business as a film processing laboratory. Pursuant to the Reliance ADA Group acquiring the controlling stake in Adlabs in the year 2005, the company has witnessed transformational growth in the canvas and scale of its operations.

Commenting on the development, Anil Arjun, Chief Executive Officer said, “The name Reliance MediaWorks Limited more accurately reflects our identity as a diversified film and media services company with a global presence.

We are privileged to draw upon the international recognition of the Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group brand, to further strengthen our leadership position in the media and entertainment business. ”

And I guess we will no longer be confused with Atlabs, though this too has changed name to Deluxe Australia.

No word on a new logo (the one above is the group company logo) but I'm sure I will be getting new business cards before too long. However, not soon enough to take with me to IBC in Amsterdam next week, which I will be attending Friday-Tuesday, followed by the Judge Business School in Cambridge, where on Saturday 19th September I am giving a keynote on 'The Globalisation of Indian Cinema - A Corporate Perspective' and sharing a panel with distinguished guests like Anupam Kher, Parminder Vir and Partho Sen-Gupta, in conjuncture with the Cambridge Film Festival.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

India's BIG Cinema embraces opera




BIG Cinemas is going where no Indian exhibitor has gone before - to screen digital operas. Given the very different musical culture of India this is a more significant undertaking than previous opera screenings in Europe and North America or even Japan. I am happy to have played a small part of it and look forwards to seeing what the outcome will be.

From the Economic Times:
BIG Cinemas, an R-ADAG company, has forged an alliance with London-based More2Screen to bring Italian operas to Indian cinemas. Big has entered into a revenue-sharing arrangement with More2Screen, which will involve screening two operas and a concert. More2Screen specialises in providing alternative content programming like operas, sporting events and concerts to theatres that are digitally equipped.

According to Tushar Dhingra, COO, Big Cinemas, the objective has been to provide distinct content. His company was the first multiplex chain to organise a show of Vagina Monologues in India.
Sadly I will not be around to watch the first one myself as I have to head back for SAWA/Cannes Lions and Cinema Expo, but I have seen them in test screenings and they look and sound fantastic. Ad to it an opera-like venue like the gorgeous BIG Metro cinema and it should be quite the night to remember.