New Delhi: Marvel’s path-breaking superhero film Black Panther has set the stage for an exciting slate of Hollywood releases lined up for this summer in India. The Ryan Coogler-directed film, the first to feature an all-black star cast as superheroes, had made Rs52.53 crore at last count and is an impressive build-up to nearly two dozen high-profile Hollywood releases. The first among them being Marvel’s own Avengers: Infinity War that stars nearly every single character from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and will release in two parts, with the first part due on 27 April.

“The introduction of the Black Panther character in Captain America: Civil War (2016) was one of the highlights of the film, and it became an instant fan-favourite. It was clear that the new film (Black Panther) would appeal to a wider audience, and had the potential to travel beyond just the superhero movie-going audience," said Bikram Duggal, executive director and head, studio entertainment, Disney India, adding that Black Panther paves the way for the much-anticipated Avengers: Infinity War.

“It (Avengers) is a story that has been 10 years in the making, starting with the release of the very first Iron Man movie back in 2008. The film has already generated unprecedented excitement among the audience," Duggal said.

Films like Black Panther and Jennifer Lawrence’s spy thriller Red Sparrow, which released earlier last month, build on the consistent rise that Hollywood movies have seen in box office collections in India. According to the media and entertainment industry report brought out by lobby group Ficci along with consulting firm EY, the box office collections of Hollywood, inclusive of all regional language dubbed versions, totaled Rs8.01 billion in 2017 as against Rs7.95 billion in 2016, comprising 13% of the overall movie box office in the country.

Atul Mohan, editor of trade magazine Complete Cinema, estimated Hollywood figures to be 30% of what Hindi films earned in 2017 and predicted a 10-15% growth in Hollywood collections this coming year. “The figure is easy to achieve if you get even one title that crosses the Rs100 crore mark and a couple of films in the Rs50-60 crore category," he said.

Apart from more Hollywood films, including non-spectacle, niche genres releasing in India and studios making an effort towards dubbed versions, there are other reasons behind the rising success rate. Localization of content and marketing campaigns are key to a diverse market like India, Duggal said. Localization makes Hollywood movies accessible to the non-English speaking audience—which further presents itself as a massive growth opportunity. Already a significant chunk of the market is occupied by dubbed content, which will only increase in the coming years.

“Newer formats such as RealD 3D and 4DX are pulling audiences to the theatres. Besides, there is the rise of English-language programming on television as well as social media, which has given people a closer look at western culture, stars, franchises and movies," said Devang Sampat, director – India Strategic Initiatives, Cinépolis India.

The line-up ahead is equally exciting. Apart from Avengers, Marvel’s next superhero film Deadpool 2 releases on 18 May, causing much buzz, thanks to the Rs29 crore collections of Deadpool in 2016. Solo: A Star Wars Story, based on Han Solo, a character from the iconic franchise is slated for 25 May, while 3D animation feature Incredibles 2, science fiction adventure Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and yet another Marvel superhero offering Ant-Man and the Wasp due on 15 June, 22 June and 6 July respectively.

“Summer is one of the most exciting times for Hollywood releases since it coincides with vacations," Mohan said. “As do the 4 July Independence Day weekend in the US and the period around Christmas end of the year."

To be sure, the summer movie calendar is as crowded for Bollywood as it is for Hollywood. From Shoojit Sarkar’s romantic drama October and Alia Bhatt-starrer Raazi to Salman Khan’s Eid offering Race 3 and Ranbir Kapoor’s take on Sanjay Dutt’s tumultuous life in the biopic made on the latter by Rajkumar Hirani, there is much to look forward to. Sampat even pointed out that release dates are often moved around to avoid clashes between Hindi and Hollywood films.

“With so many movies being made in the country and Indian audiences’ growing appreciation for Hollywood content, there’s bound to be clash of releases. Having said that, one has witnessed time and again that in the end it’s the content that brings in the audience to the theatres," Duggal said.

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