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Home > Business > Special

Hollywood's big ticket business in India

Arati Menon Carroll in Mumbai | May 17, 2007

As mainstream Bollywood continues to disappoint box offices, the summer of 2007 will be remembered as being all about Hollywood scorchers.

Spidey may have had to contend with new villains, but he still enjoyed the biggest opening weekend gross in the history of Hollywood in India, and is swinging closer (currently at Rs 44 crore) to the monstrous success of Titanic in 1997 that netted a cool Rs 55 crore.

Percept Picture company (PPC) - for whom Spiderman-3 is the first experiment in distribution of big-ticket Hollywood - is laughing all the way to the bank.

"We'll make a few bucks," says Shailendra Singh, joint managing director, Percept Holdings, of the returns on their $2 million investment.

It's little wonder then that Spidey 3 has netted sizeable brand sponsorship - from Hutch to Horlicks, HDFC, Rediff and Baskin Robbins among a total basket of nine.  "Marketing campaigns today are so segmentalised and focussed that companies believe being associated with these movies adds the zing factor to their brands. Besides, media penetration is so high today with TV ads, print and outdoor hoardings, merchandising and PoP that brand communication can be leveraged to the maximum," says Vikramjit Roy, Sony Pictures.

"We've put a lot of thought into understanding consumerism. Choose the product well and you shouldn't have trouble milking it," says Singh.

"From a Rs 184 crore (Rs 1.84 billion) business of 55 films in 2005, Hollywood grossed Rs 250 crore at the box office from 77 films in 2006," explains Roy. Money talks and Yashraj Films, Adlabs (that joined hands with PPC for Spidey 3) and PPC are laying their bets on the distribution game, and by all accounts are fighting the bidding out for the biggies of 2007.

Last year, the top five Hollywood releases accounted for 1,120 prints. This year, Spiderman 3 and Pirates 3 alone will account for just under 1,000 prints.

"Hollywood cinema has benefitted tremendously from the surge in multiplexes," says Sanjeev Bijli, director, PVR Cinemas, who adds that Hollywood releases now contribute between 8-10 per cent of PVR's total box office collections.

And the association with Hollywood will now extend to production deals as well. There's a slew of co-productions with Hollywood studios slated for release between now and 2008.

PPC has joined hands with Michael Douglas' Further Films to make the $50-million 'Racing The Monsoon'. Ashok Amritraj's Hyde Park Entertainment Group and Adlabs Films have sealed a multi-million dollar co-production film financing deal.

Sony Pictures will release their co-production Saawariya with Sanjay Leela Bhansali later this year. Sa Re Ga Ma Films is collaborating with Drena De Niro's Rapture Productions for Karma, Confessions and Holi. Also, UTV and Fox Pictures's I Think I Love My Wife will hit the screens soon.

These high-profile co-productions will allow players like Adlabs and PPC to become international distribution operators. Adlabs has already set up distribution offices in the UK and the US. PPC's whole focus, according to Singh, is to make a made-in-India Life is Beautiful type of movie that will transcend borders. "We're very serious about our distribution play both in India and abroad," he adds.

Bijli is currently on a content acquisition trip to Cannes where he hopes to pick up a mixed-bouquet of about 10 mid-sized Hollywood films for exclusive distribution. "Even with these films we expect a 25-30 per cent ROI," he explains of Hollywood's rising appeal.

There's a flip side to this. After Spidey, base acquisition prices of films for the Indian market have shot up. "We're bidding for two very big movies but are waiting for prices to come back to earth," says Singh.  Cinema lovers needn't worry though. Their summer is only going to get hotter with both Pirates of the Carribean 3 and Shrek 3 slated for a June 1st release, followed by Ratatouille, Rush Hour 3 and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

"We're crossing our fingers for Pirates 3 to track Spidey 3's successes. It's possible," says Roy.

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