Ashok Amritraj's Hyde Park Entertainment has signed a five-year, first-look production and distribution deal with Hollywood’s 20th Century Fox to produce 15-20 titles for the studio over the next five years with aggregate budgets in excess of $ 400 million.
Fox will handle domestic distribution on all pictures falling under the deal while Hyde Park will handle international distribution. Other wide-ranging arrangements include co-financing, production and distribution.
Hyde Park already has some 25-30 feature films in development. The deal anticipates Hyde Park fully financing films with budgets under $ 30 million and co-financing films above that amount. Positioning itself as a studio within a studio, Hyde Park existing second-look deal with the Walt Disney Company remains in place for another three years.
Amritraj, who has firmly established himself as one of the most successful producers in Hollywood, said, “Flexibility is the key in today’s marketplace and our goal is to have our menu of production and financing options to position Hyde Park in Hollywood and the world entertainment community as an obvious home for talent.”
Amritraj completes 25 years in Hollywood next year. During this time, he has produced over 90 Hollywood films, which have grossed in excess of $1 billion.
Tom Rothman, Co-Chairman, Fox Filmed Entertainment, described Amritraj as “one of the most prolific producers in the business” to whom Fox would look to provide “a diverse slate of pictures”.
Co-chairman Jim Gianopulos added that Amritraj possessed “a deep understanding of material, talent and the marketplace” and would be “an important asset to the studio”.
Moving from the tennis courts of Wimbledon to become the most successful Indian producer in Hollywood, Amritraj said that the reality of his life had far exceeded the dreams he had as a kid growing up in Chennai.
Speaking from his plush offices overlooking the MGM Studios in Los Angeles, he said, “It has been an extraordinary journey for someone like me, who arrived in Los Angeles in the late 1970s with just a tennis racket. I am really looking forward to the next chapter.”
Amritraj has worked with top Hollywood stars such as Bruce Willis, Dustin Hoffman, Antonio Banderas, Steve Martin, Sylvester Stallone, John Travolta, Ben Kingsley, Kurt Russell, Angelina Jolie, Kate Hudson, Cate Blanchett, Queen Latifah, etc.
His achievements have been numerous since the release of Double Impact in 1991 through Columbia Pictures, which was the first Hollywood film produced by an Indian to gross over $100 million, to the dual studio deals he signed with MGM and Disney in 1999, which spawned top hits such as Bringing Down the House (No 1 at the US box office three weeks in a row, grossing $ 250 million at the box office), Walking Tall (opened No 2 at the US box office), Bandits (opened No 2 at the US box office), Raising Helen (opened No 3 at the US box office) amongst many others.
Amritraj’s latest films, Shopgirl starring Steve Martin, and Dreamer starring Dakota Fanning and Kurt Russell (a DreamWorks release) will have gala premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2005. Hyde Park is currently in pre-production on Premonition, Monkeyface and Wallflower – all of which will start principal photography by 2006.
Hyde Park will also be producing Other End of the Line, a Hollywood film to be shot in India and San Francisco in the summer of 2006. The male lead role will be played by an established Hollywood star, while the female lead will be essayed by a yet-to-be discovered Indian girl. The worldwide search for the Indian girl has just commenced.
“Over the last 24 years, I have always thought of myself as India’s ambassador to Hollywood. I feel honoured to have succeeded in breaking down various barriers that existed and opening the door for future generations of Indian producers, directors and stars who are passionate and disciplined about making it in Hollywood,” Amritraj observed.