One trend we have often touched upon on this page is the substantial traction that Hollywood films have gained in the Indian market over the last few years.
The trade’s attention, quite understandably, tends to be grabbed by milestones and achievements like Furious 7 creating history in 2015 as the first Hollywood film to make over `100 crore in India, and The Jungle Book doing even better last year, with collections almost approaching `200 crore. However, what we also need to be mindful of are the macro trends.
Just as the mega-success of Dangal or Sultan did not necessarily indicate boom time for Hindi cinema in 2016, not every Hollywood film released in India is a superhero tent pole that has mass appeal, especially when the language barrier is overcome through dubbed versions.
So how healthy really is Hollywood in India when one looks at the larger picture – warts and all – and how does its trajectory compare to the path that Hindi cinema is on? To answer these questions, this week, we have compiled some key data points for both categories of films, and how they have changed year-on-year. Take a look at the two tables below:
By themselves, each table gives you a good sense of how its respective industry has advanced (or not) over the years. However, it is when one compares both the charts that some even more interesting observations become visible.
For one, while Hindi films still command a substantial lead over Hollywood films, it is obvious that the gap is progressively shrinking – while the total collections of Hollywood films in 2009 were at just 16 per cent of the Hindi box office, that proportion rose to 28 per cent last year. The extent of the catch-up is even more spectacular when you compare the evolution of the ‘Average Collections Per Film’ column in both charts – a Hollywood film made a mere 24 per cent of what a Hindi film did in 2009, but by the end of 2016, it was within touching distance of parity at a shade under 90 per cent.
The difference in the trajectories that both film groupings are on is apparent from other data heads too.
The Hindi box office grew by 131 per cent over the last 7 years, prima facie not outstanding numbers but not disastrous either. However, they pale in comparison to the impressive 300-per cent growth registered by Hollywood films during the same period. Moreover, the Hindi box office has actually receded from the peak it was at in 2013, while Hollywood has doubled its cumulative takings during the last 3 years that Hindi cinema has been in decline.
And this raises an important question: while Hollywood films may not be a perfect or an exact substitute for Hindi films – and vice versa – is there a substantial degree of overlap in their respective audiences and, therefore, gains for one come at the expense of the other? The fact that the current period of de-growth and stagnation for Hindi films coincides with the growth of Hollywood films, would certainly indicate so.
But the good news, if you are in the Hindi film camp, is that two can play the game, and that the shift in preference can work both ways. The most powerful proof of that can be seen in the 2013 numbers in both tables. While that year was the most remunerative ever for Hindi cinema, it was also the only year in which Hollywood films saw a decline – both in their cumulative collections as well as the average takings per film.
Quite simply, the typical Indian cinema-goer is more likely to watch a Hindi film featuring familiar faces, locales and cultural values rather than a Hollywood film. But – and this is literally a million dollar ‘but’ – the onus is on our filmmakers to make it totally worth his or her while by offering a high-quality, compelling product.
If we can’t do that, well…you can bet your last rupee – and it may well be your last rupee! – that Hollywood will be glad to oblige.