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Indian film industry looks good in global pecking order

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It is amazing what even a little appreciation from does to our film critics. They suddenly discover ‘Indian films.’ So, every critic worth his salt has been writing about India’s presence at Cannes this year.

But Indian cinema has been doing well even before it was discovered. That explains why, the tops almost every chart in Focus 2012, a report on world film market trends.

India makes the largest number of films, we buy the highest number of tickets and we have the second largest screen count. Considering how many films we watch, we score very badly on box-office revenues. In 2011, Indians paid a total of $1.47 billion to buy 2.7 billion tickets. This puts India at sixth position, way behind and the others. This is largely because average ticket prices in India are among the lowest in the world.

These, among other findings are part of Focus 2012, released by the European Audiovisual Observatory every year. It shows that the global box-office grew a healthy three odd per cent to hit $32.6 billion in 2011.(Click here for chart)

Besides doing the usual round up of what happened in the business of films, this year the report looks at the big trends in some of the top markets in the world over five years spanning 2007-2011. The results are a mixed bag. Here are three things that strike one immediately.

One, China is the fastest growing theatrical market worldwide. It is now the third largest film market by box-office gross. Roughly half of the $2.03 billion that Chinese consumers paid to buy 370 million tickets in 2011 was spent on Hollywood films. China has now overtaken UK, France and Germany as one of the biggest market for the big studios. This is surprising because China imposes a quota on the import of foreign films. No more than 20 foreign films are allowed to be released in a year. The 47 per cent growth rate, therefore, suggests that both ticket sales and average ticket prices are rising hugely. It is also an indicator of the potential for better returns if the Chinese market were opened even a little more. In February this year China agreed to up the limit to 34, provided the additional films were or .

Two, is the rise of the countries in the . Brazil, Russia, China and India are present in almost any ranking. The box-office takings in Russia more than doubled between 2007-2011.

Three, India, South Korea and China retain their standing as the only countries that withstand the might of Hollywood. Not only do they produce a huge number of local films, they consume these, too. More than half the box office in South Korea came from local films, ditto for China. About 90 per cent of India’s box-office gross in 2011 came from local hits like Singham and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. This is the biggest reason India is treated with trepidation and respect by the big studios many of which have set up productions arms here in the last few years. More than a billion people are very happy with Indian cinema and it makes money. That, arguably, is also one of the reasons Cannes finds us interesting.

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