ALSO READAfter summer duds, Hollywood pins hopes on fall ticket sales In 2017, going gets tough for Bollywood as star power fades at box office Amid Bollywood gloom, dubbed South Indian films taste success on TV too Box office collections finally pick up in festive quarter Tiger Zinda Hai roars at the box office
Over the past three years, one of the most significant developments at the Indian box office has been the increasing clout of Hollywood titles. Commanding close to 13 per cent of the total box office revenue in 2017, the genre has seen a spike in footfalls, revenue and consequently, a definite spike in interest by the multi-national studios in India as a market. Experts believe that 2018 will be an interesting year as Hollywood tries to build on the base it has built for itself while battling challenges quite different yet similar to ones it already does.
The year gone by was perhaps one of the most significant for Hollywood as it fortified the power of franchise films further. The top five performing films from the West were all franchise films, two being superhero franchises, one horror and two in the thriller category. At the same time, there were films like Logan which may not have broken records at the box office, but gave confidence to studios for releasing R-rated (A-rated in India) projects in India viable.
Vivek Krishnani, MD, Sony Pictures Entertainment (India) says that while franchise films have proven to have a particular pull at the movies, localisation continues to be the key to increasing footfalls for Hollywood films. “We’ve had a great year. Two of the top five performing films this year have been from our studio and localisation has played a big role towards this. For both Spiderman: Homecoming and Jumanji we ensured the dub scripts in Indian languages had local/colloquial references. This way, the film does not sound foreign; it gives a local touch.”
The power of localisation was witnessed in 2016 when Disney’s Jungle Book raced ahead of many native Hindi films to clock Rs 1.88 billion (Rs 188 crore) at the box office, the Hindi version contributing more than Rs one billion (Rs 100 crore). In 2017, the impact of localisation only grew as studios sharpened focus on making the films more palatable for audiences in India through smart scripting of the dubbed versions. A part of it was also seen in the marketing when for example, SPE released the trailer for Spiderman: Homecoming in 10 Indian languages.
The share of Hollywood in the overall box-office pie surged in 2017 to 13 per cent according to industry estimates. Around a decade back, its share was around 5 per cent, and five years back, around seven per cent. The robust push on localisation of content and innovative marketing have helped accelerate the growth of Hollywood’s share at the Indian box office. A fraction of the growth in share has also come from the tepid outing Bollywood has had at the box office the past couple years.
Vijay Singh, CEO, Fox Star Studios adds, “The approach towards marketing Hollywood films has also changed over the years, budgets have become aggressive, keeping in mind the local competition and increasing market share of English movies. Major spends are now diverted towards digital & social media with a targeted approach to reach out to the fans & TG for each movie respectively, depending on the scale, likeability, awareness for the same.”
SPE’s end of the year release Jumanji saw some interesting innovations in marketing. The studio placed a motion sensor automated snake at malls and movie halls. The installation took after a sequence in the film where the characters are required to get something important from under a snake. In the mall/theatre activation, the motion sensor automated snake would rear its head every time someone put their hand close to its ‘nest’.
“The lack of availability of the talent (actors) to be present in person means we have to be innovative and think out of the box. Posters and hoardings will only get you so many eyeballs. It’s how you integrate the content into the marketing to create enough intrigue to drive footfalls that matters,” Krishnani says.
In 2018, Hollywood studios in India will hope to build on the progress the genre has made over the past few years. Franchise films will continue to dominate the calendar, with big-ticket movies like Avengers: Infinity War and Aquaman being released, along with titles from the X-Men (Dark Phoenix and Deadpool 2), Marvel (Black Panther) and the Hans Solo movie in the Star Wars saga called Solo: A Star Wars Story.
“2018 should be another good year for Hollywood and it’s going to be a big year for sequels. From the Fox stable, we have one of the most anticipated sequels of this year- Deadpool 2(May 18) apart from few other exciting sequels releasing including Maze Runner 3, The Dark Phoenix (X Men franchise) and Predator. We also have quite a few big original launches including James Cameron’s Alita: Battle Angel and Red Sparrow,” Singh says.
While there is proof of appetite for the content, there is a major challenge that threatens to impede growth. The under-screened nature of the country’s exhibition market means it will get tougher to get a good release date for Hollywood films. In part, the success of Hollywood films has had a flip side to it, since studios are releasing more films every year, which means that these films are not only competing with the local fare, but also with other Hollywood films.
Back to back tent-pole releases have already started being slotted. November 2017 saw two major Hollywood flicks hit the Indian movie halls – Thor: Ragnorak on November 3 and Justice League on November 17. In 2018, many consecutive weekends will see major Hollywood titles releasing as well. Krishnani, however, is optimistic. “Yes, there will be a fight to get screens, but at the end, if the content has legs, it wins. And Hollywood content has shown resonance with Indian audiences, so I feel confident of another good year ahead.”