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Companies break the bank to buy Bollywood movie rights

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Things are heating up in again. Three years after movie companies paid big bucks to buy the worldwide acquisition rights of Bollywood films even before they went into production, only to burn their fingers at the box office, the big boys are back with a vengeance.

Driven by a series of movies that have made a killing at the box office in the past three months, culminating in the Salman Khan-starrer Ek Tha Tiger, the acquisition costs of distribution rights of upcoming movies have shot up by nearly 30 per cent.

Rohit Shetty’s film Chennai Express, starring Shah Rukh Khan, has been sold to for Rs 105 crore, just behind the previous acquisition record of Rs 126 crore for RaOne. Ajay Devgn’s Himmatwala, an official remake of the 1983 blockbuster, has also been bought by UTV Motion Pictures for Rs 74 crore. For Dabangg 2, which will have a Christmas release this year, the theatrical rights have been sold to DAR Motion Pictures for Rs 70 crore.

“There is a huge rise in business overall. With more multiplexes and done-up single theatres across the country, the numbers are up. The digitalisation of screens has also helped,” said Suniel Wadhwa, an independent film distributor.

Rowdy Rathore, starring and Sonakshi Sinha, was acquired by UTV Motion Pictures for Rs 60 crore but made Rs 134 crore at the box office.

The Abhishek Bachchan and Ajay Devgn-starrer Bol Bachchan was bought by Fox Star Studios for Rs 73 crore and made Rs 102 crore at the box office. Housefull 2 was sold to Eros International for Rs 60 crore. Eros laughed its way to the bank with box office collections of Rs 120 crore.

What has encouraged the renewed risk-taking by movie houses is the increase in average ticket prices, satellite, music and new media rights, and other revenue streams. For instance, ticket prices were raised 20-25 per cent but not many complained.

Satellite rights have hit the roof, having gone up as much as 50 per cent. Dabangg 2’s satellite rights were sold for Rs 45 crore. New media rights are no longer insignificant — they account for five per cent of total revenues for many blockbusters.

MONEY-SPINNERS
Film  Distribution  Star cast Price (Rs cr)
Chennai Express UTV Motion Pictures Shah Rukh Khan,  
Deepika  Padukone
105
Himmatwala UTV Motion Pictures Ajay Devgn  74
Bol Bachchan Fox Star Studios  Ajay Devgn,  
Abhishek Bachchan
73
Dabangg 2  Dar Motion Pictures   Not finalised 70
Rowdy Rathore  UTV Motion Pictures Akshay Kumar , 
Sonakshi Sinha
60
Housefull 2  Eros International  Akshay Kumar,  
John Abraham, Asin 
60
* Only theatrical rights                                                                                        Source: Industry

Apart from that, most A-list stars such as Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Akshay Kumar, and Saif Ali Khan have started their own production houses and sell at higher prices, as the capital is recovered faster. “That has created a supply shortage of stars for corporate production houses, so outright buying is the only option,” said an industry executive working with a leading production house.

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