The difference between Eros and Trinity is clear. Eros will continue to pursue its agenda of backing all kinds of films—be it family entertainers, dramas, romantic comedies or action flicks. Trinity, meanwhile, will only green-light franchise films.
The difference between Eros and Trinity is clear. Eros will continue to pursue its agenda of backing all kinds of films—be it family entertainers, dramas, romantic comedies or action flicks. Trinity, meanwhile, will only green-light franchise films.

Will Trinity’s franchise gamble pay off for Eros?

Launched in 2015, the content studio within the larger studio will focus specifically on franchise films written mostly by an in-house team of writers

New Delhi: Film studio Eros International’s new franchise label Trinity Pictures is out with its first movie slate. Launched in 2015, the content studio within the larger studio will focus specifically on franchise films written mostly by an in-house team of writers.

A franchise is a movie series revolving around the same characters and the world they inhabit and often lends itself to media and experiments going beyond films.

First up for Trinity is a children’s action film that will be directed by Amol Gupte (of Taare Zameen Par fame) and shot in Delhi around June; it will aim for a release latest by March next year. An elephants’ film modelled on Rajesh Khanna’s classic Haathi Mere Saathi by Tamil director Prabhu Solomon and a buddy cop film by Gabbar is Back filmmaker Krish Jagarlamudi will follow. Next year, the studio will have an Indo-China co-production directed by Kabir Khan (who made Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Ek Tha Tiger) and another project by Siddharth Anand (known for films like Bang Bang! and Bachna Ae Haseeno) going on the floors.

“We’re a boutique studio inside a big studio," said Ajit Thakur, chief executive officer, Trinity Pictures. “What Marvel is to Disney is what Trinity is to Eros." Marvel is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company and is known for its comics, animation films and television series.

Thakur said Eros International’s chairman Kishore Lulla suggested that the new studio should reside within Eros instead of being a stand-alone venture. “The advantage is that Eros has the best distribution and marketing set-up, besides so much experience and knowledge of how to take a film to the theatres. So it was a perfect match," Thakur added.

However, the difference between the two studios—Eros and Trinity—is clear. Firstly, Eros will continue to pursue its agenda of backing all kinds of films—be it family entertainers, dramas, romantic comedies or action flicks. Trinity, meanwhile, will only green-light franchise films.

Within franchises, going beyond the usual superhero spectacles, the studio hopes to look at genres like gods and kings, spies and detectives, action and adventure, animation, horror and the fantasy.

The traditional model in which Eros operates is primarily through acquisition of films or co-productions. But Trinity movies will mostly be owned and distributed entirely by Eros.

Thirdly, all Trinity films will be written in-house. The studio has already recruited six writers from across the country through applications Thakur and his writer friend Sridhar Raghavan invited on their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

But the primary focus is on franchises, which Thakur said appealed to him for personal and business reasons.

“A franchise makes you think harder about the character. I’ve been quite passionate about the idea of building a character that outlives the first film," he said.

At least eight of the top 10 films each year at the Hollywood box office beginning 2008 are franchise films, Thakur said. He believes that once you’ve created the brand, you already have 40-50% business for the new films. It allows for better marketing. Even from a scale point of view, a franchise allows you to think beyond a film, he said.

“So every franchise that we’re looking at, we’re thinking of comic books, games, merchandise, even an animation series on television. And eventually, it helps secure good talent also. Once directors or actors feel they are investing in a franchise, they know that over the next three films, they can grow," he added.

To be sure, this isn’t the first time a smaller unit has come up within a bigger studio. While Hollywood throws up names like Fox Searchlight Pictures within the Fox Entertainment Group and Sony Pictures Classics at Sony Pictures Entertainment, India has slowly been catching up with UTV Spotboy at UTV Motion Pictures and Y Films within Yash Raj Films.

But not everyone feels the need for a separate label within a bigger studio even though some of these have met with substantial success.

“We as a studio have adopted a portfolio strategy where we shall green-light all kinds of films—big, middling and small—and do not feel the need to adopt a label approach," said Vijay Singh, chief executive officer, Fox Star Studios, adding that the Indian market is a few years off from identifying with the latest development. “It’s just important to have people with the sensibilities to balance commercial with niche cinema in the team."

Plus the challenges for smaller studios, despite the distribution- and cost-related advantages, remain.

“I don’t think it’s a new concept but it has worked fine over the years," said Jehil Thakkar, partner and head-media and entertainment, KPMG India. “The challenges depend on how the smaller studio is positioned and branded, its content, size and budget. If it isn’t allowed to harness its own creative energies and there is constant corporate interference, the original objective is marred," he said.

Both Thakkar and Singh agree that franchises, whether they come from big or small studios, are the way forward. Especially proven by the success of films like Tanu Weds Manu Returns and Pyaar Ka Punchnama 2 last year.

And as is clear, that is precisely what Trinity prioritizes.

“We’re writing stories of the first three parts together and then diving into part one. If the first works, we’ll go straight into the next. If it doesn’t, we’ll make some changes and then go into it," Thakur said.

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