New Delhi: Acclaimed American dramas Hidden Figures, Silence and Moonlight, all nominees for the 89th Academy Awards, released in India last Friday, officially beginning the Oscars extravaganza in the country. Oscars 2017 is scheduled to be held in Hollywood, California, this Sunday.
Competing with nearly 13 other films—three in Hindi, eight regional and two other English ones—the films, however, haven’t managed the best run at the box office, netting less than Rs50 lakh each over the weekend.
“The market for Oscar releases in India has always been limited,” said Atul Mohan, editor of trade magazine Complete Cinema. “They cater to very niche audiences and come with the perception of being intellectual, art cinema that hardly guarantees entertainment.”
Apart from being bunched up with one another, Hollywood’s best from 2016 had to withstand competition from bilingual underwater war drama The Ghazi Attack that netted Rs15.75 crore over the weekend, besides Akshay Kumar-starrer Jolly LLB 2 that stood tall at Rs95.44 crore, spilling over from last week.
“Bunching the releases up certainly backfired as a strategy,” said film trade and business expert Girish Johar. “Bringing too many movies together mostly leaves the public with odd show timings and producers with inadequate screen count.”
The release of Oscar-nominated films in India is anyway limited to metros like Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru, and sometimes Pune, and is further restricted to premium multiplexes within these cities that account for no more than 30-50 screens across the country and allow for gross box office collections of Rs3-5 crore, trade analysts said. Besides, Hollywood films rarely spend substantially on marketing and publicity in India, which limits their commercial viability.
The upcoming week will bring in more offerings like Vishal Bharadwaj’s Rangoon and Dev Patel’s Oscar-nominated Lion.
“The buzz isn’t that high for the Oscar releases this year,” said Johar. “The only way for such films to grab eyeballs in India is to either be high on extraordinary content or come with a huge star cast.”
The fact that digital content consumption today ensures that a majority of cine-goers, particularly the target youth population, may have already watched these films online and may, therefore, not necessarily flock to theatres, does not deter exhibitors in India. “The communal theatre-viewing experience is very different from streaming a movie online,” said Kamal Gianchandani, chief executive officer, PVR Pictures.
Starting 17 February, PVR is showcasing select Oscar nominated films at 30 cinemas across 14 cities as part of its Oscar Film Festival. Gianchandani added that there is always a credibility attached to Oscar nominees and releasing them post a win even allows for a fresh lease of life. Films like 12 Years A Slave, Zero Dark Thirty, Slumdog Millionaire and The Imitation Game have been success stories at PVR in the past.
“That quality of sound and picture cannot be replicated on a phone or iPad,” Gianchandani said, while admitting that the releases are more bunched up this year and definitely not a regular phenomenon.