The last few years have been very fruitful for the Hindi film industry, and this is one of the best phases we have experienced in a long time.
We have seen tremendous growth on the back of greater output of films, an increase in the business of single-screens and bigger net box-office collections. The surprise is the revival of single-screens, which are contributing to a larger part of the films revenue than ever before
There has also been an increase in the number of multiplexes, and the overall growth in the number of cinema screens has come not only from expansion in the metros, but in the smaller cities and towns. Films are consequently enjoying a wider release and thus more shows which in turn results in better box-office collections in India.
With regards to the international market - There is a strong NRI population (25 million) who are the main audience for our films. Markets such as UK, USA, Middle East contribute 70 per cent of the box office revenue of Indian films. The South Asian markets contribute the balance 30 per cent. The international box office can contribute anywhere between 20 – 35 per cent of total box office revenue for an A-List star cast film. Romance, comedy, drama and family films are amongst the best genres that work in the Indian diaspora markets.
While the above mentioned markets are exploited for all Indian films – there is a need and potential to develop markets beyond these traditional territories.
The overseas business has the potential to grow further provided the right genre films are distributed and marketed with better efficiency. We were the first ones to demonstrate the true potential of distributing a film in international markets with our first Hindi film in 2010, My Name Is Khan (MNIK). The movie went on to rake in $ 24 million, global box office. To achieve this, we leveraged and unlocked the muscle of the Fox Star distribution network, which reaches across 60 countries. We invested in many new markets to take the film there. New territories like France, Germany, Spain, Russia, Italy, South Korea, Taiwan, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Indonesia were brought into the radar when MNIK was distributed there.
We also took a smaller film, Stanley Ka Dabba, to new shores like South Korea and Taiwan. It was the first time a Hindi film the size of Stanley Ka Dabba released across 162 cinemas in South Korea grossing over $ USD 300,000. The film will also be released in Japan next year.
We pushed the envelope with Dum Maaro Dum, which featured a bold subject like drugs and the sex racket, and it did very well internationally. We distributed it across 28 countries grossing $ 2.5 million. It is important to know the nuances of your markets, and we released Force strategically across the international markets making it the highest grossing John Abraham solo film. We targeted key markets that would suit audience tastes and took the film to 22 countries grossing $ 1.4 million.
More recently, we have released Bol Bachchan ($ 4.6 million) and Raaz 3
(estimated $ 1 million) – both of which have generated the highest international box office for an Ajay Devgan – Rohit Shetty film as also for Vishesh Films –Emraan Hashmi.
Here is our learning for succeeding internationally:
1. You need to have access to, or invest in, distribution network in the three key markets – i.e. UK, USA and the Middle East countries.
2. You need to have a constant pipeline of films and build relationships with the exhibitors and distributors. Once you build a relationship in a territory, you leverage that. So, having released MNIK in Korea, we followed with the release of Stanley Ka Dabba in 2011 and will now release Force in 2012.
3. Films are market-specific, and you need to understand what works where. You have to make sure you distribute your films according to genre and local audience tastes. You have to service local needs and it takes a lot of market research and time to do this, but we as a studio have benefitted from it. It’s about going the extra mile and constantly looking for new alliances. We first think: where in the world would this film work? Then we come up with ten markets and evaluate the kind of network we have there and who should we reach out to ensure the best possible distribution of our product. In some of the non-traditional international markets, we have led the way for Bollywood. For instance Stanley Ka Dabba will be released across screens in Japan in 2013. This will be the first time a Hindi film is being released in Japan with Japanese subtitles.