Hollywood animation drifts into Indian box office glory

Written by Sudipta Datta | Kolkata | Updated: Aug 5 2012, 07:42am hrs
Theme song in Hindi, character portraits on taxis and malls, dubbing in local languages: a 360-degree marketing initiative has helped 20th Century Fox earn its biggest success yet for an animation film on the difficult domestic box office in India.

In the opening weekend, Ice Age 4, A Continental Drift has grossed R12.5 crore at the box office here, after releasing on 294 screens on July 27. Multiplexes are likely to give the film multiple shows for at least two more weeks, with the independence day holiday week coming up, thus giving Star Fox Studios hope that it will cross the numbers of the most successful animation film in India till date DreamWorks Kung Fu Panda 2 (R27 crore) or Sonys Tintin (R24 crore).

Ice Age 4 is the first Hollywood animation film to be dubbed in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu, and the effort appears to have paid off. Says Vivek Krishnani, head, marketing, Fox Star Studios, We took a 360-degree approach to market the film because we wanted to create a lot of noise around the film to pull in crowds, aged between 6 and 60. In India, animation films are usually thought as being for children, but we tried to bring the whole family in.

He adds that the local level marketing helped. We dubbed the theme song in Hindi, we got Scrat, (the friendly sabre-toothed squirrel whose quest for acorns starts the whole continental drift journey), out there and converted a whole mall in Delhi into an ice age village, he says.

PVR spokesperson Rahul Singh says the hype around the film helped draw in the crowds. For an animation film, it got the biggest opening ever and is still going strong despite other releases, he adds.

Over the past two years, Hollywood films have been faring better at the box office, with Avatar breaching the R100-crore mark and films like Disney UTVs Avengers earning R52 crore. But animation films have only been doing anything between R8-20 crore on an average. Compared to China, which is already the second-largest contributor to Hollywood films after the US market, India is still a minuscule market. Worldwide, Ice Age 4 grossed $632 million, despite being a flop with critics.

But with Indian film ticket sales growing to 3.3 billion annually, Hollywood studios have begun digging deeper in the Indian market. Action and popular franchise films like Harry Potter are routinely being dubbed in regional languages. But Star Foxs Krishnani points out that the studio is trying to grow the animation genre as well by dubbing the film into local languages, a first.

We also managed to rope in seven top brands, from McDonalds, LG to MTR Milk Drinks, Crax and Alpenliebe, he says, thus easing the burden on the marketing and promotional budget.