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Home > Movies > Bollywood News

Bollywood tackles Hollywood

Shamni Pande | January 26, 2006 15:05 IST

Last year saw Hindi films block Hollywood's invasion of the Indian Box Office.

It's a bounce back that would do any good scriptwriter proud. After several years of letting Hollywood claim a bigger and bigger share of cinema ticket sales, Hindi filmmakers managed to reverse the trend with a spirited performance in 2005.

Overall, revenues are estimated at a healthy Rs 3,600 crore in 2005, up 18 per cent over the previous year. According to market estimates, the box office share of Hollywood movies in India has declined from a high of about 9 per cent, to around 4 per cent last year (about Rs 150 crore in all).

Hollywood representatives are tightlipped on individual takings. But they do accept a reversal. "
What is noteworthy is that 2005 was really big for Bollywood," concedes Vikramjit Roy, head, publicity and acquisitions, Sony Pictures Releasing of India (SPRI), "and that newer multiplex screens have been added."

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Not that Hindi cinema ever lost its charm. But, for a while, it looked as if Hollywood's domination was inevitable, as its dubbed blockbusters began to do almost as well as Hindi cinema's biggest hits. That fear has now abated. S
ays Pooja Shetty, director, Adlabs Films, "There were some good movies from Hollywood studios. Yet, last year clearly belonged to Bollywood, especially the new-genre of crossover films. Hollywood could not match its performance of previous years."

To be sure, Sony Pictures still seems game for a fight (see box), even as others seem to be in quiet retreat. Rupert Murdoch's 20th Century Fox, for example, now operates though Warner Brothers. Paramount, which also handles Universal Pictures' and DreamWorks' films in India, has turned part of its distribution over to local distributors.

Of course, India is by far the bigger producer of films in terms of volume, spooling out some 900 films every year, compared to just around 75 from Hollywood. The difference is of scale: Titanic, Spiderman and Jurassic Park were all made with hundreds of millions of dollars.

Hollywood has a global dollar market, and operates on bigger budgets and bigger returns. Implicit in this difference is that a Hollywood film gets to amortize production costs over a wealthier crowd of filmgoers, making it easier to get a return on investment in India (prints and dubbing are all it takes).

But globalisation works both ways. According to some commentators, the 1998 megahit Titanic, which grossed almost Rs 60 crore in India, was actually a Hindi formula success in emotional essence (love across a social barrier), though on a global scale and with technical wizardry to back it.

On the latter attributes, Hindi cinema is playing catch-up. Even as Hollywood appears to stagnate. Just as well, say marketing professionals looking to ride their brands on the success of films. "If you take away the sequels of some big ticket movies, then the market has hardly expanded. In fact, from the brand perspective, marketers have found Hollywood movies to be an exceedingly difficult environment," feels M Suku, national director, Broadmind, the specialist media arm of Group M. Local marketing initiatives, he says, are a problem with Hollywood productions.

That might end once Hollywood studios enter domestic film production, having already managed a foot through the door in distribution. Sony, for example, has announced that it will co-produce Sanjay Leela Bhansali's latest venture Saawariya. This will be a first. And an experiment to be watched closely.

Sony Pictures plays on

Sony Pictures Releasing of India Ltd (SPRI) did well last year with XXX2, Kung Fu Hustle, Stealth, Legend of Zorro and Hitch, even as Hollywood rivals stole the thunder with Star Wars, King Kong, Goblet of Fire and War of The Worlds.

This year, though, of the seven hollywood studios in the country -- Sony, United Artist, Universal, Paramount (which handles distribution for Dream Works and Universal), Warner Brothers and 20th Century Fox (which works through Warner Brothers) -- Sony seems keenest on the Indian box office.

Releasing on January 26 is The Chronicles of Narnia, based on the popular book by C S Lewis. The studio plans over 100 prints, with some dubbed in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu. The 360-degree brand campaign includes a special song by singer Shaan, even as the company gears itself for such releases as Memoirs of a Geisha, Zathura, Underworld: Evolution, Da Vinci Code, Cars and Open Season. The increase in multiplexes, from the current 70 to around 125 by the year end, will also help.

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