‘It’ adds to India’s love for Hollywood horror
New Delhi: Pennywise, the evil clown of It, came to life in sewers, paintings and crumbling mansions in India's movie theatres during the weekend, leaping ahead of Poster Boys and Daddy in box office collections. The Hollywood movie, based on a Stephen King novel of the same name, made more than Rs8 crore over the opening weekend, while Bollywood slapstick comedy Poster Boys and crime drama Daddy managed Rs7.25 crore and Rs4.5 crore, respectively.
While a Hollywood release beating local content at the box office may not be new, It definitely adds to India’s growing love for horror, demonstrated also in the recent success of films like Annabelle: Creation and The Conjuring 2 that had earned Rs49.50 crore and Rs61.78 crore, respectively. The latter, in fact, was the second-highest Hollywood grosser of 2016, right behind Disney’s fantasy adventure film The Jungle Book (Rs188 crore).
To be sure, the Andy Muschietti-directed horror film has also stormed the box office worldwide, making more than $179 million in total earnings as of now, including more than $117 million in the US, where it ranks as one of the largest openers for an R (restricted) rated movie. According to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) film rating system, R rated movies require audiences under 17 to be accompanied by a parent or adult guardian.
There is also a promising line-up of horror films to look forward to. Later this month, director Niels Arden Oplev brings Ellen Page, Diego Luna, Nina Dobrev and James Norton in psychological horror flick Flatliners, while the new instalments of the Insidious and Predator franchises—Insidious: The Last Key and The Predator—are scheduled for next year.
But it’s India where affinity for the genre is growing most noticeably.
“People in India love watching horror films,” said distributor Brijesh Tandon, who primarily operates in the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh circuit. “There is definitely an audience for the genre, primarily among the youth, both in the metros as well as small towns.”
Tandon attributed the success of Hollywood horror movies to the fact that they are mostly well-made and can attract audiences with their first look and trailer.
“Ultimately it’s the product that counts. If that is good, the audience will connect,” Tandon said.
To be sure, some industry experts point out that the resounding success of genres like Hollywood horror has to do with the dearth of equally impressive Bollywood fare. There is the famed legacy of the Ramsay brothers, a group of seven brothers who produced more than 30 horror films in India with sparse crews and shoestring budgets during the 1980s. Plus, franchises like Vishesh Films’ Raaz and Vikram Bhatt’s 1920 and several trendsetting, successful horror flicks, including Ram Gopal Varma’s Raat and Bhoot, deserve mention. But India doesn’t have a strong tradition of horror films.
“There aren’t too many filmmakers attempting horror on a good scale,” said film trade and exhibition expert Girish Johar, adding that it’s not a very satellite TV-friendly segment. Most horror films are either not eligible for unrestricted television viewing or are limited to unconventional, late-night time slots. “The returns on the genre are always one of the best in any part of the world, but in India, it’s always tough and producers are very conscious of that.”
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