How India beat the US

Feb 12, 2012, 08:18 IST | Rinky Kumar & Lhendup G Bhutia

The recent emergence of India as a lucrative market has prompted television channels and Hollywood studios to premiere their shows and movies here before the US

The recent emergence of India as a lucrative market has prompted television channels and Hollywood studios to premiere their shows and movies here before the US 
There is every reason for the US television industry to be excited. In the midst of a number of sitcoms and espionage dramas, the Hollywood A-lister Ashley Judd, who has starred in popular and acclaimed films like Heat and Double Jeopardy, is returning to television for a new series titled Missing. Not just that, the show's executive producers include those that have directed popular series like Dexter (Steve Shill) and Sons Of Anarchy (James Parriott). The also sounds every bit a top draw -- it's the story of a former CIA agent on the search of her son who has suddenly disappeared in Italy.

Missing, which marks the return of Hollywood A-lister Ashley
Judd to television, will premiere in India four days before the

But while the US audiences will have to wait till March 15 to catch the show, it will be beamed to your television set on March 11, four days before anyone in America can even catch a glimpse of it. As far as English television content is concerned, India hardly ever figured in the scheme of things. Usually top television shows premiere here, years after they have had a successful run in the US. For instance, the money-spinner Dexter, which won acclaim for its innovative storyline of a bloodstain pattern analyst who moonlights as a serial killer, premiered in India on March 7, 2011. This was almost five years after it was first aired in the US. Currently, US audiences are watching the sixth season of the show. The premiere of Missing in India is hence a big deal for viewers in the country. 

According to Saurabh Yagnik, General Manager and Senior VP, Star India Pvt. Ltd, this is indicative of a much larger trend -- that of the emergence of the Indian market. Yagnik says, "India is a huge market with a large English-speaking population. Viewers today are well aware of the new shows that launch internationally. From the studio perspective also, Disney considers India a very important market for the consumption of Hollywood content." Yagnik adds that India has an English-speaking population of 30 per cent, out of which at least five per cent now consume English content, making that a huge market base.

No idiot box phenomena
However, this trend of getting English content to India before its release in the US is not just limited to the idiot box. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island hit theatres in India on February 3, a week prior to its US release. Last year, The Three Musketeers, a relatively small film, and Tom Cruise's highly anticipated Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol were released in India a week before they were released in the US. Likewise, Steven Spielberg's The Adventures of Tintin hit the screens in India six weeks before the US.

The Adventures Of Tintin, which was released here six weeks
before it hit the screens in the US, went on to become the
highest-grossing animation movie in India

Kercy Daruwala, Sony Picture India's Managing Director, confirms that Skyfall, the 23rd Bond movie starring Daniel Craig and Javier Bardem helmed by Oscar winner Sam Mendes, will release on November 2 this year in India, a week before the US. Clearly, this move has worked for the studios.  Mission : Impossible -- Ghost Protocol set a record for the highest-opening weekend gross for any Hollywood film in India. It collected Rs 263 million during its opening weekend while Transformers: Dark of the Moon collected Rs 195 million during its opening weekend.

Vikram Malhotra, the COO of Viacom 18 Motion Pictures, says,  "2011 has been a landmark year for Hollywood films with titles like Transformers: Dark of The Moon and Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol, both Viacom18 releases, doing record business in India. This growing contribution by India to the global box office pie has prompted Hollywood filmmakers to heighten the proposition by giving Indian fans a chance to watch these films before the world does."

According to industry insiders, this trend was bound to occur as India makes a significant contribution to the revenue generated from international markets. Dinesh Rathore, Vice-president of Starcom Mediavest group, a media-planning agency, says, "US studios have now realised that Indian viewers need to be treated at par with foreign audiences. India is a lucrative market and when a Hollywood film is released here before the US, it translates into good box-office collections."

The deciding factors
In the case of The Adventures �, a survey conducted by Sony Pictures revealed that over 90 per cent of Indians were already aware of Tintin as they grew up reading Herge's famous comic books. Thus, the movie did not require a brand-building exercise. The film went on to become the highest-grossing animation movie in India. It did a business of Rs 25.44 crore.

However, in the case of other films, good word-of-mouth possibility or strong brand presence are not the only decisive factors to release them in India early. Viacom Motion Pictures released Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol on December 16 in India, and not on Christmas day, like it did in the US. This was done to ensure that it didn't clash with the Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Don 2. Similarly, the independent film Three Musketeers was released in India on October 14, so that it didn't clash with Ra.One. According to Rathore, "US studios have realised that there is competition from homegrown cinema and  look at releasing Hollywood movies earlier in India so that they don't clash with local films."

Rakesh Sippy, Mumbai-based distributor of Raksha entertainment, couldn't agree more. "With even Hindi films being released in 3D, studios have become more careful. Earlier 3D screens at multiplexes were limited. Now the numbers have increased. However, Indian and foreign studios are still fighting for 3D screen space, so it makes sense to release Hollywood movies earlier." 

The emergence of India as a lucrative market has compelled studios to become proactive. "Initially foreign studios had limited marketing budgets. But today, they spend more on marketing. Movies are also dubbed in regional languages, that proves to be profitable for the studios," explains Sunil Punjabi, CEO of Cinemax India.
Industry insiders are confident that this trend is here to stay. Now, you can rate an international film on Facebook, way before your cousins in the US.

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