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Overseas markets bring hope for ailing Indian film industry

Salman Khan’s Radhe, releasing next week, is likely to benefit from the easing of covid restrictions in places such as the US, UK and UAE.  Telugu court room drama Vakeel Saab had made over Rs3 crore on its opening day in the US and performed well in Australia and New Zealand.Premium
Salman Khan’s Radhe, releasing next week, is likely to benefit from the easing of covid restrictions in places such as the US, UK and UAE. Telugu court room drama Vakeel Saab had made over Rs3 crore on its opening day in the US and performed well in Australia and New Zealand.

  • Mainstream commercial entertainers across languages have always done well in countries such as the US, UAE and Malaysia, where a sizeable Indian diaspora resides

NEW DELHI : In some good news for the Indian film business, key overseas territories such as the US, UK and UAE are opening up as covid-19 infections recede in those regions. While the first beneficiary of this could be Salman Khan’s Radhe releasing next week, Telugu court room drama Vakeel Saab made over Rs3 crore on its opening day in the US and performed well in Australia and New Zealand.

In 2019, international markets contributed around 15% to overall Indian film industry revenue, according to a recent Ficci EY report. Before theatres had shut down in India due to the recent second wave of covid-19 infections, Tamil film Karnan made A$79,433 ( 45.25 lakh), NZ$ 11,310 (Rs5.94 lakh) and S$ 90,871 (Rs50.62 lakh) in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore respectively within the first two days.

Earlier this year, Tamil film Master released for Pongal had generated around $4.75 million (Rs34 crore) internationally in its opening weekend.

“That overseas markets such as the US and UK have pretty much opened is a positive sign for the Indian film business though things continue to be difficult here in India," film producer, trade and exhibition expert Girish Johar said.

While box office figures in these territories are not comparable with pre-covid days, it is still a good start, Johar added, aided by the fact that mainstream commercial entertainers across languages have always done well in countries such as the US, UAE and Malaysia, where a sizeable Indian diaspora resides.

Hollywood, too, seems committed to stage a comeback to theatres, Johar said, with Marvel having announced dates for its next 10 movies earlier this week. While its superhero flick Black Widow is scheduled for 9 July, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will open on 3 September.

Late last month, the box office in the US saw its best weekend since the pandemic started as it crossed the $50 million mark for the first time in over a year with Mortal Kombat and Japanese film Demon Slayer The Movie - Mugen Train. A trade expert who did not wish to be named said the absence of Bollywood fare soon after theatres reopen may allow better showcasing for big Hollywood titles that anyway have wide appeal thanks to dubbed versions.

“The US market is seemingly on the mend and with bigger films lined up in the second half of the year, numbers should be closer to what they were before the pandemic," a blog by trade website Box Office India on the country’s box office said.

Independent trade expert Sreedhar Pillai said the movie industry is keenly awaiting the feedback to Salman Khan’s Radhe that will release in cinemas overseas and on pay-per-view service ZeePlex next week to see if the model can be implemented for other films. The fact that most theatres in India remain shut has not deterred distributor Zee Studios which claims to release the film in 40 countries across international territories including West Asia, North America, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Europe.

Regardless of language, trade experts say mass-market commercial films made for the big screen are likely to draw audiences in the coming months.

“All the diaspora is waiting for right now is a big entertainer," Johar said.

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