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2018: Another good year for Hollywood in India

By Urvi Malvania
January 29, 2018 12:47 IST

Franchise films will continue to dominate the calendar, with big-ticket movies like Avengers: Infinity War, Aquaman, Dark Phoenix, Deadpool 2, Black Panther.
Urvi Malvania reports.

Sophie Turner in X Men Dark Phoenix
IMAGE: Sophie Turner in X-Men Dark Phoenix.

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 multi-national studios in India as a market.

Experts believe that 2018 will be an interesting year as Hollywood tries to grow 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 viably.


Vivek Krishnani, managing director, Sony Pictures Entertainment (India) or SPE, says while franchise films have proven to have a particular pull at the movies, localisation continues to be the key to increase 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. For both Spider-man: 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," he adds.

"The strategy's success can be gauged from the fact that we actually added around 25 screens for Jumanji in its third week!"

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 at the box office, the Hindi version contributing more than Rs 1 billion.

In 2017, the impact of localisation only grew as studios sharpened focus on making 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 Spider-Man: 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 five per cent, and five years back around seven per cent.

A robust push on localisation of content and innovative marketing has helped to accelerate growth of Hollywood's share at the Indian box office.

A fraction of growth in share has also come from a tepid outing Bollywood has had at the box office in the past couple of years.

Vijay Singh, chief executive officer, Fox Star Studios, said, "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 and social media with a targeted approach to reach out to the fans, 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'.

"Lack of availability of 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," Krishnani says.

"It is how you integrate the content into the marketing to create enough intrigue to drive footfalls that matters," he adds.

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 franchise: Dark Phoenix and Deadpool 2); Marvel (Black Panther) and the Hans Solo movie in the Star Wars saga, Solo: A Star Wars Story.

"The year 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 -- apart from a few other exciting sequels, including Maze Runner 3, The Dark Phoenix and Predator, " Singh says.

"We also have quite a few big original launches, including James Cameron's Alita: Battle Angel and Red Sparrow," he adds.

While there is a 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 local fare, but also with other Hollywood films.

Back-to-back tent-pole releases have started being slotted.

November 2017 saw two major Hollywood flicks hit 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 to the 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."

Urvi Malvania
Source: source