Kalki’ lone star shining as overseas film business remains in doldrums

By its second week, Prabhas, Amitabh Bachchan and Deepika Padukone-starrer Kalki had earned $16 million ( ₹133.50 crore) in North America and Canada, £1.28 million (Rs. 13.68 crore) in the UK and A$2.73 million (Rs. 15.36 crore) in Australia, among other markets. (Image: X)
By its second week, Prabhas, Amitabh Bachchan and Deepika Padukone-starrer Kalki had earned $16 million ( 133.50 crore) in North America and Canada, £1.28 million (Rs. 13.68 crore) in the UK and A$2.73 million (Rs. 15.36 crore) in Australia, among other markets. (Image: X)

Summary

  • Box office collections of Indian movies from overseas markets have been scraping the bottom of the barrel for months now, similar to the situation in domestic markets. With Kalki bringing some hope with its performance, has the Indian movie business finally found its feet again?

Box office collections for the Indian film industry from overseas markets such as the US, the UK, Canada and the UAE, among others, have been at an all-time low over the past few months, mirroring the trend seen in the domestic market. 

With fewer big releases during the Lok Sabha 2024 election season, coupled with the inability of smaller titles to pull in big crowds, footfall at movie theatres, even overseas, have remained low barring for a few titles. 

Moreover, trade experts say audiences across the Indian diaspora have swiftly moved away from Hindi films to southern language cinema, as evident in the box office numbers of Kalki, the first big hit in months. 

Also read: Bollywood stalls as star fees, fickle audiences cast a shadow

The Prabhas, Amitabh Bachchan and Deepika Padukone-starrer movie had earned $16 million ( 133.50 crore) in North America and Canada, £1.28 million ( 13.68 crore) in the UK and A$2.73 million (Rs. 15.36 crore) in Australia, among other markets, by its second week. Meanwhile, in the domestic market, it earned 530 crore. 

Bollywood's falling star 

In contrast, the only Bollywood film that has found favour with the overseas moviegoing crowd this year has been Tabu, Kareena Kapoor Khan and Kriti Sanon-starrer Crew that earned around 50 crore abroad upon its release in March and around 90 crore in the domestic market.

“The trend across the world is that the whole habit of going to the theatre has come down because it is prohibitively expensive, plus audiences don’t feel that anything great is on offer too often," said Yusuf Shaikh, business head of feature films at production and distribution firm Percept Pictures. 

Also read: Filmmakers launch merchandise, spin-offs of tentpole movies for enduring income

Trade experts like Shaikh said only tentpole movies like Kalki, and earlier Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani, have found an audience overseas and a lot also depends on when there are holidays or long weekends in foreign markets. 

Much of the cinema-going habit among young Indians studying abroad has also been disrupted due to high ticket prices. Further, with Indian film studios anyway cutting down on marketing and promotional budgets by around 60-70%, there are hardly any efforts made to create buzz and hype around new releases in the domestic or overseas markets.

New stars in the galaxy

In contrast, southern language films, especially those in Malayalam, have brought in better returns from overseas territories for filmmakers over the past few months. 

Malayalam hits such as Fahadh Faasil-starrer Aavesham and Prithviraj Sukumaran’s Aadujeevitham-The Goat Life had grossed close to 160 crore, each, worldwide earlier this year, out of which 95 crore and 85 crore, respectively, were their domestic collections.

“Malayalam films are doing extraordinarily well in markets like the US, the UK and the Gulf and taking better openings than Hindi (movies) in many cases. Bollywood—that was the most popular choice abroad—has seen a definite slump in business unless a really big star is in the picture," said independent trade analyst Sreedhar Pillai. 

Also read: Movie star entourages under the scanner amid uncertain box office returns

While the Telugu movie industry has not really seen a big hit other than Kalki this year, Pillai said it is now common for screens in markets like the US to be dominated by Telugu, and increasingly Malayalam films, which definitely wasn’t the case earlier, when Hindi movies used to lead the charts most of the time.

Film producer and trade and exhibition expert Girish Johar, said audiences abroad tend to face the problem of choice far more than in India, as the line-up of Hollywood titles also competes strongly for their attention. 

“Also, the word-of-mouth has to travel from India for films to find an audience overseas. If the domestic business isn’t in order, how will those viewers feel confident about these movies? That explains why they have mostly been cautious," Johar explained.

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