Cashing in on the Oscar fever

Feb 23, 2014, 04:06 IST | Shakti Shetty

With Oscar awards around the corner, nominated Hollywood films are getting a boost in the Indian market

When George Clooney and Sandra Bullock-starrer Gravity released in October, it collected about R23 crore in gross box office revenues over a period of two weeks.

The amount may pale in front of the so-called 100 crore club but it was the fastest Hollywood film — released only in English — to achieve that figure in India.

Word-of-mouth played a huge role in its success. But the spectacular sci-fi movie wasn’t done yet. Once the Oscar nominations were announced in the middle of January, the makers of Gravity decided to re-release it. Besides, it has garnered 10 nods from the Academy and given the critical response to its innovative 3D, re-releasing seemed like a pragmatic decision.

(From top) Movie stills from Oscar nominated-movies, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity and Frozen

Turns out it was — and not just in the USA.

However, Warner Bros weren’t the only production house to set themselves on this journey of second thoughts. Disney too re-released Frozen at the end of last month. Having picked up two Oscar nods — one in the Best Animated Feature and another in the Best Original Song category — the celebrated movie had a reasonable (re)opening at the marquee.

Mumbai-based exhibitor Rajesh Thadani attributes these distribution tactics to the evident balance of supply and demand. With the audience well aware of what’s going on around them, they can choose better. “The public is prepared to get into a cinema hall because of the relatively shortened exposure to cinema. Multiplexes follow the Friday-Saturday-Sunday mantra so religiously that when a certain film is re-released, it provides another chance for not only the movies but also their audiences who might have possibly overlooked a certain film the first time it was released.”

It goes without saying that the term ‘Oscar’ indeed attracts attention. And footfalls. “If a Hollywood film manages to grab even 20-30 screens in a city when it’s re-released, it makes quite a lot of difference to their gross arithmetic. In any case, the distribution network works in such a manner that the screenings are spaced out throughout different cities,” adds Thadani.

Apart from re-releases, the very opening of Oscar-nominated films is also in vogue this season as far as India is concerned. Releasing Oscar-nominated movies during the Oscar season has been a trend all over the globe but it has gradually picked up pace in India as well. The highlight is a string of nominated movies releasing back-to-back every weekend starting January 17. There’s a visible upswing in the number of quality Hollywood releases and that too during the early part of the year. American Hustle, Mandala: Long Walk to Freedom, Saving Mr Banks and Lone Survivor are some of them. By the sheer rise in numbers, this change has more to do with commercial wisdom than anything else.

Avinaash Jumani of PictureWorks, which will release the biopic Dallas Buyers Club (which has been nominated for an Oscar in six categories) reinforces the impact of globalisation when it comes to releasing Hollywood films in India. “Nominated films tend to have a higher news value around the season and the audience are not only aware but also curious in anticipation of such films because of the buzz surrounding them. That’s also why it makes most sense to go in with that strategy of releasing them during the Oscar season.” Starring Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club will open on February 28, just three days before Oscar night.

One other factor that contributed to a better reception of Hollywood fare is the decline of Bollywood collections. With Jai Ho registering below par figures — considering that it starred Salman Khan in the lead — in multiplexes, there were higher number of screenings available for the Western counterparts. At least that’s what trade analyst Amod Mehra believes. “Usually what happens is English films get cornered because the obvious choice for a distributor is to go with Hindi films. However, at this point of time, none of the Bollywood movies have risen to their expectations. So naturally, Hollywood films with Oscar nominations attached to their introductions are going to making the most of their chances.”

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