Hollywood digs in deeper

Written by Sudipta Datta | Updated: Aug 17 2011, 06:39am hrs
For James Camerons 3D extravaganza Avatars TV premiere in India, the Star network went overboard. Hoardings everywhere, cutouts from the film, sustained promotions and huge sponsor interest made it an unprecedented event for a Hollywood film release on TVan indicator of how deeply entrenched Hollywood now is in India. When the film released on the big screen last year, it earned R140 crore in India, the highest by a Hollywood film in India, and could be watched on 700 screens.

India is certainly a fast growing market for Hollywood films, says Vijay Singh, CEO, Fox Star Studio, citing the Avatar example. "Fox India was the 13th highest grosser for Avatar worldwide, which is itself a huge achievement for us. We have figured in the top international markets in the world for a number of films, including The A-Team, Knight & Day, Predators, Chronicles of Narnia, 127 Hours and X Men: First Class, which is phenomenal," he points out.

Warner Brothers, too, has seen its revenues grow through the years, especially with its Harry Potter brand. For instance, the first Harry Potter released in India in 2002 with 101 prints, grossing R10 crore at the box office. By the time Harry Potter 7 released in two installments, one in 2010 and the other in July 2011, there were over 1,000 prints and at least R75 crore in earnings. Warner released 15 films in 2011.

Ashesh Jani, partner, Deloitte Haskins & Sells, says Hollywood movies are doing well in India and 2011 is notable for containing the release of the most film sequels in a single year. Singh says the overall share of Hollywood films at the box office has grown from 5% to 9% and with the promise of quality entertainment and increasing appeal among Indian audiences, this share is only going to grow. "On the consumer front, the 3D revolution and the penetration of these films across India through aggressive marketing and distribution has helped to make the films more relevant and connect with filmgoers across the country," he adds.

But Jani and other analysts we spoke to admit that though Hollywood films are being well received by the Indian audience, the business prospects of English language films are yet to mature. So, while Avatar did gross R140 crore in India, compared to a 3 Idiots or Ghajini, which did over R250 crore in India, Hollywood films are still on the lower side, and as analysts point out, every film will not do business like Avatar.

Analysts say Hollywood films have got a fresh lease of life after being dubbed in regional languages. "English films work well after being dubbed and subtitled as their reach increases. Some movies that succeeded in this formula were Rio, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -2, Pirates of the Caribbean, Kung Fu Panda 2, etc," says Jani.

Sanjeev Lamba, CEO, Reliance Entertainment, which markets and distributes all DreamWorks films in India, says it is imperative for any studio that releases a major Hollywood film in India to dub the film in regional languages to maximise its financial potential. "Given the recent successes of some of various Hollywood films in India we see a burgeoning demand for good and entertaining content, not only in the metros, but in tier II and III towns as well," he adds. Reliance Entertainment alone expects to market and distribute a minimum of ten Hollywood films every year.

Sony Pictures India MD Kercy Daruwala says by the end of 2011, Sony would have released over 20 films in India, most same day and date release with the US. Sony Pictures is the oldest Hollywood studio in India having been in the country for 76 years. Daruwala, who has been with Sony for 30 years, says the Hollywood market has changed beyond recognition. "Hollywood films have gone from limited releases to large scale, wide releases, like 2012, upcoming films like The Amazing Spider Man, The Adventures of Tintin, Men in Black 3. From releasing a film with just two-three prints, we released a blockbuster like 2012 with over 800 prints," he adds.

Daruwala claims that a big Hollywood release could easily feature in the top earning movies of the year in India and Hollywood is not slow to recognise its potential in this market. For example, Steven Spielbergs The Adventures of Tintin will release in India six weeks before its US release, as Tintin has a huge awareness here. Not surprisingly, and despite Sonys Saawariya debacle in 2007 when the film flopped, the studios are keenly watching Bollywood as well. Daruwala says Sony will always be open to new projects "but there are no developments to report as of now", adding, "We may be distributing a couple of local films in the near future and will announce them soon."

Viacom 18 Motion Pictures has already drawn up ambitious plans for India, releasing three films, Tanu Weds Manu, Shaitan and Buddha Hoga Tera Baap this year. Vikram Malhotra, COO, Viacom 18 Motion Pictures, says foreign studios are bound to tap into the unexploited India market.

Jani of Deloitte points out that all the Hollywood studios have their own offices in India for the past many years and have established themselves as powerful producers, distributors, etc. "They are also tying up with Bollywood production and distribution houses to push their products and co-produce films. Collaboration with the Indian industry is what these studios are looking at, as they realise that India is a very big market and could prove to be of equal importance as the market in their home country," he adds.

Kamal Jain, CFO, Eros, says with the Indian film market set to grow exponentially in the next five years, "the interest Hollywood is showing is understandable... their home market is slowing down, ours is growing".

Singh of Star Fox Studio says the biggest advantage is that India is a huge movie consuming nation. But, he admits that the challenge is getting the dates right due to the high number of local Bollywood releases"getting the right window is extremely important". Also, India is a fairly underscreened market, so getting adequate showcasing for a long run gets quite difficult, but the multiplex expansion is a different story.