Circa 1996: Two cousins, one in India and the other in the US, discuss the most talked about spy film of the year, Mission Impossible. The Indian cousin listens carefully because of the long wait to watch the film in theatres here. Cut to the present. In 2015, things have changed, as it’s the cousin in India narrating the story of the latest release to the one in the US.
This is because many studios release their films in the country before their official release in the US. Some films that released in India before the US are The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Mission Impossible — Ghost Protocol and Quantum of Solace.
This year Indian fans will get to watch The Avengers: Age Of Ultron one week in advance of the US, on April 24. Disney India, distributing the film, had done the same for the first part of the franchisee, The Avengers, in 2012.
But before we think Hollywood is suddenly turning sweet on India, here’s a reality check. Amrita Pandey, vice-president and head (marketing and distribution), Studio Disney India, gives us the cold facts. “For Indians, a trip to the movies is like a big family outing. So we map holidays, exam dates, etc, before closing on a release date in India. For us it doesn’t matter when the film opens in its original country.”
Other studios think similarly. Disney’s competitor Viacom18 Motion Pictures, too, has an exciting year ahead as it will see the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator – Genisys and Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible 5. The franchises have a great fan following in India and the studio is betting on them to work this year too. Ajit Andhare, COO, Viacom18 Motion Pictures, says the studio doesn’t generally have advanced release for Hollywood films in India. “The only case where this is done is if there is a clash with a big local release,” he adds.
Says PVR Pictures CEO Kamal Gianchandani, “Over time, Hollywood studios have adapted themselves to the Indian market and learned survival tricks. The upcoming Avengers film is slated for release on April 24, a week before the May 1 release in the US, and also of Akshay Kumar-starrer Main Gabbar. Why would anyone want to compete with that?”
But this is not the norm. In most cases a Hollywood movie releases on the same date as the US in India and only 5-10% of the movies release a little earlier.
GroupM ESP’s senior business director Ameya Sule has another perspective. “Keeping in mind that India is a very diverse market, some studios may want to release a film in India first to gauge the response and based on that modify their plan for the US. This, however, is a rarity.” Also, one needs to keep in mind that in case a Hollywood movie releases a week later or more in India, the chances of piracy are huge, thus resulting in big revenue losses for studios in India. The same rule applies globally. Oscar-nominated The Imitation Game was released in the United Kingdom almost a month prior to the US.
India has a robust local film market, so despite being high on popularity, Hollywood films still have a long way to go when it comes to box office (BO) revenue. Compared to China, which is a $4.8-billion film market, India still stands at $1.5 billion, of which only 7.5-8 % accounts for BO collections from Hollywood movies.
Among the growing middle class, there is a growth in demand for Hollywood content. Adds Sule, “Some blockbusters or established franchises do BO business of over R40 crore. With big movies releasing in 2015, it is only going to get better.”
* In most cases a Hollywood movie releases on the same date in the United States as in India
* However, 5-10% of the movies release a little earlier in India that the United States now
* This year Indian fans can watch The Avengers: Age Of Ultron, one week in advance of its US release
* In case a Hollywood movie releases a week later or more in India, the chances of piracy are huge
* In case a big Bollywood movie is releasing, studios prefer to release Hollywood movie earlier than delay it