Diwali, Hollywood style

Written by Sudipta Datta | Updated: Nov 11 2012, 02:48am hrs
Diwali has come early to theatres this year, riding on Hollywood and Bond. With Skyfall releasing almost a fortnight before D-day, and other mega movies following suit, Bollywood just has two offerings to take on the competitionJab Tak Hai Jaan and Son of Sardaar

Promoting Jab Tak Hai Jaan, which is set for a Diwali release, Shah Rukh Khan was seen in the classic James Bond gun pose. And yes, Diwali has come early to Bollywood, riding on Hollywood and Bond. Daniel Craig as James Bond in Sony Pictures Skyfall opened on November 1, eight days ahead of the US release, with 907 prints, in English and dubbed in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu. For Hollywood in India, this is the second largest release after Spiderman 3, but the largest release for a non-3D film.

Industry analysts say, whats interesting is that Sony decided to release the film ahead of the US and thus got a clear 12 days before the two big Bollywood releasesYash Raj Films Jab Tak Hai Jaan and Viacom 18s Son of Sardaar, starring Ajay Devgn. Both films are slated to open wide, but neither wanted to comment on the number of screens/ prints. Industry sources say while the SRK film would open in 2,700 screens, Devgns film would open in 1,500 screens. The emotional connect withJab Tak Hai Jaan, says one distributor, increased after the demise of Yash Chopra, and exhibitors might want to cash in on that, a point which hasnt gone down well with Ajay Devgn Films, which sent a legal notice to Yash Raj Films as to why it should get more screens than Son of Sardaar.

Says Rudrarup Datta, head of marketing and operations, Viacom18 Motion Pictures, Son of Sardaar is an out and out family entertainer and the perfect Diwali film. The promos of the film have been loved by the audiences and the songs are already chartbusters. The release plan will be befitting to the scale and size of the film and be in line with the biggest releases of the year. Rafiq Gangjee, VP, marketing and communications, at Yash Raj Films says its too early even for a guesstimate, but we are looking at an extensive release.

This year, the biggest releases of Bollywood, from UTVs Rowdy Rathode and Barfee to Yash Raj Films Ek Tha Tiger, released in 2,000- plus screens. India has 10,000-plus screens, including single and multiplex screens. However, with the wide release of both SRK and Devgns films, they are likely to cut into each others business by around 30-35%, predict trade pundits.

But Siddharth Roy Kapur, MD, (studios), Disney UTV, reminds us that for the past two-three years, there have been two big releases during Diwali. This year, screens have gone up and there is space for two big films. During holidays people dont mind watching two films if the content is good, he adds. Gangjee, too, says that though everyone would like a solo week, the festive season is accommodating enough for two big releases to be launched simultaneously.

Yash Raj Films had announced Yash Chopras last film Jab Tak Hai Jaan with great fanfare in September, harping on the king of romance is back theme. If Shah Rukh Khan was the ultimate romantic hero, Chopra was the king of romance with his studio giving us Kabhie, Kabhie, Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, Chandni, Silsila and now Jab Tak Hai Jaan. With AR Rehman and Gulzar roped in, the project is being seen as the perfect Diwali release associated with SRK.

This is Shah Rukhs tenth Diwali release, and in the past he has given hits like Baazigar, DDLJ, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Veer Zaara, Don, Om Shanti Om and Ra.One. Though Ra.One didnt please critics, Eros Entertainment, which co-produced Ra.One, says the film grossed R150 crore in all, including theatrical, satellite, overseas and other rights.

Box office growing

Rahul Singh, senior VP operations at PVR, points out that with films now getting a wide release, the box office is growing. Its been a good year for Bollywood with at least five films already crossing the R100-crore mark. Whats interesting is that the Hollywood pie too has grown, with films from Avengers to Argo to Taken 2 doing well, he says.

In fact, the Diwali month has other Hollywood releases besides Bond. Stolen starring Nicholas Cage was released by Multivision Multimedia and distributed by PVR on November 7. Taking advantage of the fact that no Hindi film is releasing ahead of Diwali, we chose the November 7 release date and launched the Cage film in 300 screens in English, Hindi, Tamil and Telugu, says Sunil Udhani, head, Multivision Multimedia,

Foxs Life of Pi, directed by Ang Lee, and with Indian cast members like Irrfan Khan, will open on November 23 in 600 screens, including 300 in 3D. According to Vijay Singh, CEO, Star Fox India, Life of Pi, which will see a wide release in India, is a phenomenal Hollywood film with an Indian-centric soul. You will get to see the talent India has and also its picturesque locales.

It transcends boundaries with universal appeal.

Hollywood expanding footprint

With Avatar showing the wayit grossed R100 crore at the Indian box officeHollywood studios are releasing their films wider in India, with genres that usually do well, like action and animation usually dubbed in regional languages. The top three Hollywood grossers till date in India are Avatar, 2012 and Spiderman 4. Disneys Avengers comes in fourth, grossing R69 crore. The Bond franchise, too, has grown in India, especially after Craig took over as the super spy. Casino Royale was released on November 17, 2006, with 427 prints and grossed R40 crore.

Two years later, Quantam of Solace released with 571 prints and earned R44 crore. On day one, Skyfall collected R6.5 crore, and while this is far less than a Bollywood biggie would collect (R20-30 crore), by Hollywood standards, the Bond film has done very well. It also has had great reviews to create a huge word-of-mouth buzz and draw the crowds, says an exhibitor.

Banking on promotions

For Son of Sardaar, the marketing campaign is a mix of scale and innovation. Says Datta of Viacom 18, While our media plan will reach out to maximum audiences across India, including smaller towns and regional markets, innovations like the Son of Sardaar firecrackers and online viral campaigns will continue to wow audiences. We are not only looking at traditional mediums to promote the film but also interesting opportunities like truck-backs and dhaba branding in line with the flavour of the film.

Yash Raj Films also entered into a brand association with Discovery Channel for Jab Tak Hai Jaan. One of its female leads, Akira, played by Anushka Sharma, is portrayed as an employee of Discovery Channel, who wants to make a documentary on the male lead of the film, Shah Rukh Khan. Rahul Johri, senior vice-president and general manager, South Asia, Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific, says the association reflected the immense popularity that Discovery Channel enjoys in India and around the world where this film will be released.

DIWALI

HITS and MISSES

2011

* Ra.OneThis Red Chillies Entertainment and Eros Entertainment film starring Shah Rukh Khan was the only big Diwali release and it was hyped and promoted heavily. Though critics rubbished the film, it opened well and managed to earn over Rs.100 crore, thanks to theatrical, satellite and overseas rights

2010

* Golmaal 3Directed by Rohit Shetty and starring Kareena Kapoor and Ajay Devgn, this comic caper was a hit and earned R32 crore in the opening weekend and R103 crore in all

* Action ReplayDirected by Vipul Shah, it starred Akshay Kumar and Aishwarya Rai, but flopped

2009

* BlueThe Ashtavinayak-produced underwater thriller, starring Akshay Kumar and Lara Dutta, was touted as a R100-crore film, but it tanked at the box office

* Main aur Mrs Khanna Salman Khan and Kareena Kapoor romance produced by UTV flopped

2008

* Golmaal ReturnsThe comedy directed by Rohit Shetty, was declared a hit

* Fashion Madhur Bhandarkars take on the fashion industry starring Priyanka Chopra, did moderate business

2007

* Om Shanti OmDirected by Farah Khan and starring SRK and newbie Deepika Padukone, was a superhit

* SaawariyaSanjay Leela Bhansalis over-hyped romantic drama starring Ranbir Kapoor and Sonam Kapoor, flopped, prompting Sony to stop producing Indian content

TOP FIVE HOLLYWOOD FILMS IN INDIA

* Avatar Dreamworks and James Camerons sci-fi thriller earned R99 crore

* 2012 The sci-fi disaster film starring John Cusack was a hit in India and earned Rs.65 crore

* Spiderman 3 Sony Pictures comic book hero has worked well domestically, earning R49 crore

* AvengersDisneys super hero film earned R45 crore

* Mission Impossible 4Distributed by Paramount Pictures, the action flick starring Tom Cruise earned R35 crore

Industry estimates