In a country addicted to 3-hour long movies that are mash-ups of every genre (musical numbers, bodice-ripping melodrama, action and chase scenes all in the same movie) with saintly mothers, perky heroines and suffering-while-singing heroes, the second biggest movie of last year was The Jungle Book. It shattered every record by grossing $39 million. The movie was released in English in urban areas, and dubbed in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi by Bollywood stars for the vernacular audiences.
This is an impressive number, considering the average movie ticket costs less than $4, and that’s in multiplex theaters. At the low end, admission costs less than a dollar.
The uber flop Batman v. Superman made $1.8 in its opening week in India, bearing out the contention that a lot of bombs are bailed out by the international market. Kung Fu Panda 3 became India’s highest grossing animated film, again giving local cinema a run for its money. The Conjuring 2 and Deadpool were big hits as well, beating out the local offerings.
It’s easy to see why Hollywood’s focus has been on China lately. By 2020, China will overtake the US domestic box office, according to a report by Ernst & Young. But the fourth largest international market, India, has not had the same level of press attention.
One of the fastest growing economies in the world, India had a growth rate of 7.6% in 2015. In 2016, the total box office take was $1.8 billion, up from $1.5 billion in 2015, according to statista.com.
Well aware of the potential for this market, Hollywood studios increasingly cast Indian stars in tentpole movies. Priyanka Chopra, a huge Bollywood star with a successful TV series in the US, Quantico, will be in the upcoming Baywatch. Deepika Padukone, another big star in India, was in the last XXX movie with Vin Diesel. Irrfan Khan, the respected character actor, has made a very good living in lead roles in Jurassic World, Inferno, Life of Pi, The Amazing Spiderman, The Namesake, and several others. Anupam Kher and Om Puri, other character actors with long careers in India, have been seen in Silver Linings Playbook and The Hundred-Foot Journey, respectively. Slumdog Millionaire launched the careers of Freida Pinto and Anil Kumar in the US.
See more at HFPA.