New Delhi: The year gone by brought a lot of fortune for Hollywood movies released in India, with the total revenue, according to trade magazine Box Office India, rising by more than 92% to 437.79 crore in 2015, from 227.62 crore in 2014.

Nearly a fourth of the revenue for the year came from one movie—Vin Diesel’s action thriller Fast and Furious 7, which grossed 100 crore in India. Released in April across 2,800 screens, the film netted 69.65 crore in the first week itself.

Apart from this James Wan-directed movie, science-fiction action adventure Avengers: Age of Ultron, Jurassic World, Tom Cruise thriller Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation and James Bond movie Spectre also netted impressive collections of 73.06 crore, 77.30 crore, 48 crore and 36.88 crore, respectively.

“It would be fair to say that there has been a surge in Hollywood’s contribution to the overall box office in India," said Amrita Pandey, vice-president and head of marketing and distribution, Disney India.

According to Disney India’s analysis, Hollywood movies, in the past three-four years, constitute 6-8% of the total movie sales in the country.

“But their sales has gone up to nearly 14% this year (2015). The question is whether the rise will sustain," Pandey added.

Industry experts and studio heads like Pandey attribute the wider acceptance of Hollywood movies in India to the rise of a more mature and discerning audience. They also contrast it with a near-flat performance of Bollywood movies.

To be sure, big-ticket Bollywood releases like Ranbir Kapoor and Anushka Sharma-starrer Bombay Velvet and Shahid Kapoor and Alia Bhatt’s Shandaar performed poorly at the box office with collections of 23 crore and 43 crore, respectively, according to movie website Bollywood Hungama.

Yet another reason for the increasing popularity of Hollywood movies is the social media through which information on new and upcoming releases travels faster. Also there are so many English general entertainment channels now that there is no dearth of information.

“Audiences today are exposed to world cinema, and that includes Hollywood. Plus, in the culture of ‘be English, do English’, a lot of people in small towns are able to learn the language through these films," said trade analyst Komal Nahta.

“And, unlike earlier, when Hollywood films were released only in English in the top 8-10 cities, the reach through dubbed films is much wider," he added.

Fast and Furious 7 provides a fascinating case study on the exhibition and distribution potential in India. Going against the norm, distributors Universal Pictures chose not to restrict the screening of the film to DCI (Digital Cinema Initiatives)-compliant theatres and became the first major Hollywood studio to take their film to non-DCI theatres too.

DCI is a joint venture of several film studios, including Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, 20th Century Fox, Universal Studios, The Walt Disney Company and Warner Bros, to set up a common set of requirements that ensure a high and uniform standard of digital cinema viewing.

While the rest of the world sticks to DCI because of their dependence on Hollywood, India remains a mix of DCI and non-DCI screens mainly because of its home-grown content that surpasses everything else in popularity.

Each studio reserves the right to release its films in non-DCI formats and while it may be a compromise on quality, the gamble certainly paid off for Universal in this case.

Universal realized that there’s a market out there and wide distribution is the key to help it grow, said Ajit Andhare, chief operating officer, Viacom18 Motion Pictures.

“India is anyway extremely under-indexed as far as the theatrical channel is concerned. We have about 3-4 crore paying consumers out of a 120-crore population and less than 10,000 screens for them. The reason a country like China is making news is that they have a 5-6 million-strong middle class that can spend $12-15 on a movie ticket and a screen count of 30,000 to cater to them," he added.

A rising GDP and higher disposable income for the middle class would be ideal for Hollywood films in India. But until that happens, the challenge is to keep churning out diverse content though spectacular superhero films. Also crucial is to make that content available in local languages, which contribute about 40% of Hollywood box office revenue in India.

In 2016, Disney has offerings like disaster drama The Finest Hours, releasing on 5 February; 3D live-animation fantasy The Jungle Book, a remake of the classic 1967 film, releasing in April; and Marvel’s superhero film Captain America: Civil War, releasing on 6 May.

Viacom, continuing its association with Paramount Pictures, brings action-thriller 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi in January, historical epic Ben-Hur in August, among others.

Sony Pictures India will bring back blockbuster franchises like Ghostbusters, Inferno and Underworld.

The flurry of new releases will cover almost all movie genres.

“The biggest mistake would be to flood the market with similar type of films. We look at releasing every film we can as we believe that there is an audience for every kind of film here and we need to create an appetite for every genre," said Vivek Krishnani, managing director, Sony Pictures India.

The studio’s 2016 line-up includes dramas, comedies, animation films, thrillers, action/disaster and sci-fi, plus popular franchises.

Seven of these are releasing on the same date in India and the US to take advantage of the international buzz, lessen the effects of piracy and, most importantly, so that Indian audiences don’t have to wait.

“We need to ensure that we are able to entertain audiences with our content year on year so we can maintain the growth trajectory that we have seen this year. With growth in multiplexes, the 3D format and with dubbing, we hope to reach audiences in tier-II cities and expand the appeal for Hollywood movies," Krishnani said.

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