Hollywood's India journey: A plot twist with modest collections in 2023

With gross box office collections of  ₹157 crore, Oppenheimer, the biographical thriller directed by Christopher Nolan, topped the charts in 2023. (AP)
With gross box office collections of 157 crore, Oppenheimer, the biographical thriller directed by Christopher Nolan, topped the charts in 2023. (AP)

Summary

  • In 2023, American films are expected to contribute about 13% to India’s total theatrical business, compared to an average of 20-22% during pre-pandemic times.

NEW DELHI : Hollywood’s grip on the Indian audience, cultivated over the last few years, encountered a plot twist this year with box office collections estimated at just 1,300 crore from around 35 releases —a modest rise from the 1,276 crore earned in 2022, when 20 films were screened due to the covid-19 delays.

Besides, in 2023, American films are expected to contribute about 13% to India’s total theatrical business, compared to an average of 20-22% during pre-pandemic times. The lacklustre performance of major superhero films that resonated across age groups, and absence of blockbusters like Avengers franchise, have contributed to a less-than-epic year by Hollywood standards, despite some seemingly niche titles, such as Oppenheimer, surpassing expectations. With gross box office collections of 157 crore, Oppenheimer, the biographical thriller directed by Christopher Nolan, topped the charts in 2023, followed by Fast X ( 138 crore), Mission: Impossible- Dead Reckoning Part One ( 132 crore), Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 3 ( 72 crore) and John Wick: Chapter 4 ( 58 crore).

“As far as the box office of superhero films goes, there seems to be an erosion but the fatigue factor is being given too much credence. It ultimately depends on the content of the film," said Denzil Dias, vice-president and managing director, India theatrical, Warner Bros Discovery.

Dias highlighted the success of Oppenheimer, a genre typically less favoured in India, that is the leading Hollywood film for 2023, besides grabbing the title of becoming the highest-grossing Universal film ever in the country, as well as recording the highest IMAX earnings, surpassing even the local titles. Warner is in charge of the distribution of Universal Studios films in India.

Top Hollywood studios like Disney, Sony, Viacom, Warner Bros, and Universal, generated around 1,100 crore this year, compared to 1,227 crore last year, aided by the outstanding success of Avatar: The Way of Water that grossed 400 crore alone, Dias added.

However, experts and theatre owners said the superhero formula has now been spread too thin by Hollywood studios, and the proliferation of spin-offs and web shows are leading to a dip in theatrical footfalls.

Audience interest may not have waned, but you cannot be telling the same story with a few change in visuals, Pankaj Jaysinh, CEO of distribution and film service UFO Moviez, said.

Speaking at The New York Times’ annual DealBook summit last month, Disney CEO Bob Iger had acknowledged that the company had ‘diluted’ the calibre of films produced by Marvel. “Often, the story is not as strong as the original story, that can be a problem..there has to be an artistic reason to make it, and we’ve made too many," he had said. Even though Disney is currently working on several sequels, he noted that the company will only greenlight sequels they believe are “worth telling".

There seems to be a decline in audience interest in major franchises and superhero films, Devang Sampat, chief executive officer, Cinepolis India agreed, as evidenced by the underperformance of movies like The Marvels, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, and Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 3. “This decline may be attributed to creative storytelling shortcomings and a failure to connect with audience expectations. However, there is optimism for improvement with upcoming releases like Aquaman And The Lost Kingdom in December 2023 and Kung Fu Panda 4 in 2024," Sampat said.

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