The noise value of Spider-Man 3 itself was worth more than Rs15 crore,” says a proud Vikramjit Roy. The noise in media that the film’s publicity head of Sony Pictures Releasing of India Ltd is talking about is in addition to the Rs15-16 crore high-pitch advertising and marketing budget that its distribution company, P9 Integrated Pvt. Ltd (P9), has set apart for the film in India. Indeed, the budget is higher than Sony Pictures’ last release, Casino Royale, and most certainly, much more than Spider-Man 2.
What is also unique about the campaign and its success—cinema halls across the country are showing ‘house-full’ notices—is its innovative multilingual approach. The strategy might well bridge the Hollywood handicap in Bollywood land.
Sony released 558 prints across the country, which beat the previous Hollywood best of 427 prints for Casino Royale. Of these, 261 prints were in Hindi, 162 in English, 156 in Tamil and Telugu, three special IMAX prints, and six, believe it or not, in Bhojpuri.
It was a first for a Hollywood movie. “It was a good business decision because we were expecting a lot of enthusiasm (for the movie) from Indian movie buffs across the country,” says Navin Shah, CEO, P9 Integrated.
The three-month campaign covered all media platforms—television, print, radio and the Internet. And also Spidey merchandise. “The integrated marketing initiative has really helped,” says Shah. Spider-Man’s black suit—and the dark side to the do-gooder’s character—was a hot topic of discussion across radio channels. In cyberspace, the expectation was built up through a countdown on the Internet.
The web that P9 spun also roped in various brands— Travelguru, rediff.com, Ceat, HDFC Life Insurance, Radio City and Baskin Robbins. The ice-cream chain even introduced five limited-edition flavours with a web-topping. “The question was: Could I have Rs20 crore of brands coming on board with my small budget?” explains Shah.
All this helped get the launch right. As did the mega-release strategy. The response was commensurate. Not only were movie tickets a sell-out in the metros, small towns, too, reported a good turn out—33,000 in Bhatinda, 22,000 in Ambala and 48,033 in Hisar. “We had nine metros and nearly 70 small towns covered,” says Shailendra Singh, joint managing director, Percept Holdings Pvt. Ltd, P9’s parent company. “There were small villages clocking 60,000. It wasn’t by default. It was by design,” he adds.
The Bhojpuri dub has helped, too. It is running to packed houses at halls in Bihar’s interiors. Shah believes that it broke the myth that Hollywood was not for a Hindi audience. The approach P9 took to grab Hindi-speaking audiences was typically Bollywood—huge, colourful graffiti on walls in towns across India. The intention, he says, was to make a visitor to the cinema choose between a Hindi movie and Spider-Man 3.
The company has allocated $10 million (around Rs41 crore) to acquire distribution rights for Hollywood movies in India and is confident of scoring Hollywood hits in Bollywood heartland. “In 2004, SpiderMan 2 came second only to Veer-Zaara,” says Shah. “So you shouldn’t be surprised if Spider-Man 3 becomes the biggest movie this year,” he adds.
Singh shares this optimism. He expects Spider-Man 3 to earn Rs18-20 crore in a week, with 55% earned over the first weekend. “This is better than the figures for Dhoom 2, and that is a big deal,” he says. “This is our first Hollywood film, and it’s almost like winning the World Cup in the very first attempt.”
The maximum advance bookings have come from the Hindi belt, Singh points out, and “if a Hollywood film is doing so well in this segment, then Bollywood better watch its back”.
The true picture of Spider-Man 3’s success in India, however, will emerge only in the weeks that follow. Shah is quick to add a disclaimer. “The franchise itself was so renowned that marketing played only so much of a role,” he says. Shah hopes to keep the buzz on till June. But it is obvious: A Bhojpuri debut has Spider-Man 3 on an upswing.