New Delhi: Last Friday’s Hollywood release, Independence Day: Resurgence, opened to box office collections of ₹ 4.70 crore. The science-fiction film, a sequel to the 1996 film Independence Day, easily outdid the Hindi release for the week, Anurag Kashyap’s morbid thriller Raman Raghav 2.0, which netted only ₹ 1.10 crore on its first day.
The Roland Emmerich film is the latest to join the club of Hollywood spectacles that have beaten Bollywood offerings at the Indian box office this year. Hollywood films have collected around $61 million in the first six months of 2016, within striking distance of the $62 million they made in all of 2014.
While that may still only be a fraction of Bollywood’s box office revenue, a case-by-case study proves that Hollywood has certainly been upping its game.
For example, two weeks ago, supernatural horror flick The Conjuring 2 netted ₹ 5.25 crore on its opening day, compared with Amitabh Bachchan-starrer Te3n’s ₹ 2.61 crore. The former has managed ₹ 53.78 crore in India by now, while the Hindi film finished with ₹ 17.79 crore.
Earlier in the year, Hollywood releases such as The Jungle Book, Captain America: Civil War and Deadpool had beaten Hindi films released alongside them and set records with collections of ₹ 182.52 crore, ₹ 59.26 crore and ₹ 29.02 crore, respectively.
The Jungle Book held its own against Shah Rukh Khan’s Fan, which hit the screens a week later and earned only ₹ 84.10 crore in box office collection.
The signs of a Hollywood resurgence in India started to emerge last year, with Vin Diesel’s action flick Fast and Furious 7, said Devang Sampat, business head, strategy, at theatre chain Cinepolis India. The film earned about ₹ 155 crore in India.
“In 2005-06, Hollywood’s share of multiplex box office revenue in India used to be around 5% whereas dependence on Bollywood content used to be 85%," Sampat said. “Last year onwards, we have seen Hollywood contributing as much as 25% and dependence on Bollywood has dropped from 85% to 50%."
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Sampat attributes the rise in the share of Hollywood movies to the multiplex revolution.
“India, as a country, has a great geography and demography. Any option works with that kind of population. But after the digitalization that multiplexes brought about, producers started releasing Hollywood films in India on the same date as the rest of the world and in case of movies like The Jungle Book, before the main release," he said.
The advent of multiplexes in small towns has been a game-changer, he said. For long, fans in places such as Guwahati, Hooghly or Patna would either wait for Hollywood DVDs to come out or look for alternative platforms. The appetite was always there, but they just didn’t want to go to the theatres.
But there are more recent factors, especially the emergence of a phenomenon called ‘transliteration’ this year where Hollywood films are not simply translated into the local language for Indian audiences, but have their dialogues written and voices cast like an entirely new film.
“A lot of attention has been paid to the localization efforts. At least for us on The Jungle Book, the marketing and the quality of the dubbing of the film have been big contributors," said Amrita Pandey, vice-president, studios, Disney India.
The Jon Favreau-directed fantasy adventure had dialogues penned by senior Bollywood writer Mayur Puri and a voice cast that included names such as Nana Patekar, Irrfan Khan, Om Puri and Priyanka Chopra.
Pandey added that distribution decisions—such as which theatre will play English and Hindi versions and corresponding show timings—are also crucial, especially because more and more people are getting their information on movies online.
The language isn’t a barrier now, with content making all the difference.
“When big English movies like Civil War or The Conjuring come up, people are aware of them already," she said. “Plus, audiences don’t mind the whole dubbed scenario anymore. Be it the success of Baahubali in Hindi, or now Sairat, the Marathi film that has done so well. It goes on to tell you something—it’s not only happening to Hollywood films. There is more acceptance and people are looking for great content overall."
To be sure, the popularity of Hollywood movies is limited to larger-than-life fantasy spectacles. Critically acclaimed dramas, comedies or even Oscar-nominated films are yet to make a substantial impact in India.
“It’s again a matter of choice and audience preferences. You don’t expect even an Indian movie like The Lunchbox to become a Dhoom 3 or Dabangg," said Sampat. “It has a limited audience and is appreciated for its creative subject. Same goes for Oscar nominees. I think it’s a matter of time before they grow, but the collections of niche movies ideally shouldn’t be compared with the ₹ 100 crore club."
Besides, while summers are big as far as English movies are concerned, the second half of the year is when Bollywood is truly known to get down to business. Beginning with Salman Khan’s Sultan for Eid in July, there are several big films lined up, including Ajay Devgn’s directorial vehicle Shivaay in October and Aamir Khan’s wrestling film Dangal for Christmas.
“The good part is the overall box-office pie has grown, so while Bollywood’s contribution to it might have reduced because Hollywood has upped its game, Hindi films are also growing at an equal pace," said Sampat, who expects Hollywood to end 2016 with a 20% share of Indian box office revenue.
“It’s a great time for the Indian entertainment industry where both Hollywood and Bollywood have their own audiences."
The top grossers of the year so far, such as Airlift ( ₹ 128.1 crore), Neerja ( ₹ 75.61 crore), Kapoor & Sons ( ₹ 73.29 crore) and Baaghi ( ₹ 76.33 crore), have all been strong films, Pandey notes.
All figures have been sourced from the movie website Bollywood Hungama.