Indian Film Outfit Goes Hollywood


Postproduction house Prime Focus Group, on an aggressive acquisition binge, is buying two companies with major Hollywood credits

For months now, Hollywood has been beating a path to India, eager to get in on the fast growing market for Indian-made films. This year, Sony (SNE) imported the film Saawariya that it produced in India. Walt Disney (DIS) next year will release a film, made with an Indian animation company, based on a story of a dog abandoned by its owners in the streets of Mumbai. Warner Brothers (TWX) has two Indian projects in the works.

But now an Indian company wants to turn the tables with plans to invest in the area of U.S. filmmaking that involves special effects and postproduction finishing touches.

Prime Focus Group (PRFO) , a Mumbai-based postproduction house for films, TV shows, and advertisements, intends to pay $43 million for a pair of Los Angeles companies, Post Logic Studios and Frantic Films. The acquisitions, to be announced on Nov. 29, would add offices in Hollywood, New York, Winnipeg, and Vancouver to the six studios Prime Focus operates in India and four sites in London, the company says. In all, the 200 new staffers would expand the buyer's postproduction staff to an estimated 400 visual effects artists worldwide, Prime Focus says.

Healthy Appetite for Acquisitions

While Prime Focus won't soon threaten the likes of George Lucas' ILM or postproduction giant Technicolor, the Indian-owned company is bulking up on companies that have woven their way into the Hollywood fabric with some impressive projects. Frantic Films has done visual effects for such films as Fox's (NWS) Fantastic Four and X-Men franchises, while Post Logic Studios has provided color work and other finishing touches for films that include the Weinstein Brothers' film Halloween and Universal Pictures' (GE) American Gangster.

Prime Focus, already India's largest postproduction house with more than 1,200 employees, says it was launched in a garage by four partners with an initial investment of $10,000 and a single editing machine. The company today offers a wide range of film services that include special effects, high-definition production, and film editing and sound recording. In the year that ended March 31, it generated $5.3 million in profit on sales of $50.9 million. Prime Focus, which is traded on the Bombay and National Stock exchanges in Mumbai, has been on an aggressive acquisition binge that for now shows little sign of slowing.

Grover is Los Angeles bureau chief for BusinessWeek.

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