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Hollywood’s interest growing in the Indian market

Hollywood’s interest growing in the Indian market

While working with Satyam Cineplexes Ltd in New Delhi, I was witness to the hysteria generated by Titanic, which was released in 1998 and is still, by far, the biggest film in any language, considering its phenomenal box office success.

Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., which distributed Titanic in India, imposed a lot of restrictions on all of us to carry only the approved visuals of the film in our advertising. For one of our press ads, though, we did not carry this approved visual and being younger and therefore more stupid, I thought we could get away with it since we were based in Delhi and Fox had its office in Mumbai.

Sunder Kimatrai, the then managing director of Twentieth Century Fox (India) and now vice-president, Asia-Pacific, overseeing Asia and Australia, called us up to protest the appearance of this ad. We, of course, apologized for the unintended error but were curious about how he came to know about it. It so happened that Fox had actually hired public relations and clipper agencies across the world to monitor all the coverage of Titanic and it was their Singapore office that pointed them to this ad, which should normally not have merited any attention outside of Delhi.

Cost recovery? A still from the movie Quick Gun Murugun.

I recall Kimatrai telling me that Fox was being so careful about the usage of approved artwork because, as and when James Cameron makes his next film, it would of course play in our cinemas because multiplexes will release all the films that come out, but it was important for Fox to ensure that it fulfilled its contractual obligations to Cameron and continued its relationship with him for his future projects as well.

Well, we are happy that more than a decade later, Cameron has indeed returned to make a film with Fox, titled Avatar, which will be released on 18 December worldwide. We, for one, would like to believe that Kimatrai also played an important part in clinching the deal for Fox.

During my later stint with PVR Pictures, in a rather similar incident, we received a call from the India-based legal representative of the production company, Sidney Kimmel Entertainment (SKE), from whom we had taken all rights of their film Death at a Funeral for the subcontinent. They wanted to know if we had given the remake rights to anyone in India because SKE was informed through this representative about the interest of an Indian production company for buying the remake rights to this film.

It’s amazing how important the Indian market has suddenly become for Hollywood firms and how they like to monitor the happenings in our industry. It is therefore admirable that producers Indra Kumar and Ashok Thakeria readily agreed to purchase the remake rights of Death at a Funeral for their film Daddy Cool, a fact mentioned in the film’s opening credits.

Daddy Cool, distributed and co-produced by BIG Pictures, opened with 260 prints and in around 600 screens in India. Made at a cost of Rs13 crore including print and advertising (P&A), the film managed the India distributor share of around Rs2-3 crore and the other rights will fetch another Rs4-5 crore. The film will therefore make a loss at the end of its first cycle.

Quick Gun Murugun, made at a cost of Rs10 crore including P&A, was released in English, Hindi and Tamil with 175 prints and in 350 screens. Its Telugu version will be released later. It received a minimum guarantee of Rs45 lakh from the Tamil version, which would help take its India theatrical share to Rs2.5-3 crore across its run. Other rights are expected to fetch another Rs3-4 crore, resulting in a marginal loss for Fox-Star, which may still be recoverable if its Telugu version clicks with the audiences.

Kisaan, which was released with 255 prints and in 590 screens across India, cost around Rs9 crore including P&A. The film will close at an India distributor share of Rs2 crore at best and other rights fetching another Rs2-3 crore, resulting in a loss of around Rs4-5 crore. Love Khichdi, Yeh Mera India and Toss failed to make any mark at the box office and will entail heavy losses to the producers.

The Taking of Pelham 123, which was a remake of the 1974 film of the same name, was released by Paramount Films of India Ltd, with 120 prints and in 150 screens in English and Hindi versions. The film got a disappointing response at the box office and will probably close its theatrical share at around Rs65-75 lakh at best.

Race to Witch Mountain was released in English and Hindi by UTV Motion Pictures Plc with 95 prints and in around 125 screens. The film will most likely close its run at Rs70-80 lakh, which is again below expectations.

A special mention needs to be made of Life Partner, which sustained itself superbly in India and overseas after its slightly shaky start. We had predicted that the film’s total recovery will be around Rs18-20 crore. However, we now expect the film to easily touch the Rs20-22 crore mark for Studio 18, thanks to its fantastic rearguard action.

Finally, an update on the Telugu film, Magadheera, which has now become the biggest film of the year in any language with its distributor share from the India theatrical release now touching a whopping Rs49 crore till date, and its run will probably culminate around Rs53-54 crore, which is next only to the Hindi version of Ghajini.

This week’s releases are Aagey se Right, Three: Love Lies Betrayal, Chintuji, Bachelor Party, Mohandas and Fox in Hindi. The Final Destination (part 4) in 3-D is the only English release of the week.

Ashish Saksena is an executive with extensive experience in India’s entertainment sector and was previously CEO of PVR Pictures. His weekly column looks at the business side of Bollywood releases.

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