Avengers: Infinity War – Hollywood’s Coming-of-Age Film in India

27 Apr,2018

 

By Shailesh Kapoor

 

Exactly 52 weeks ago, Bahubali 2 released worldwide. In this piece written then, I wrote about the huge potential of the film in the Hindi market. As it turned out, my 300 Cr estimate was too conservative. The film went on to cross the 500 Cr mark. In the process, it beat Dangal’s record by a staggering 35%. And this is only the Hindi version. Add Telugu and the numbers look simply unbeatable for several years now.

 

Bahubali 2 was that watershed film that showed a struggling Hindi film industry (footfalls have been dropping for five years back-to-back now) that if the content has the right elements that can create a compelling big-screen experience, the audiences will not hesitate to flock to the theatres.

 

A year later, the same lesson is ready to be revised. This time with a Hollywood biggie in Avengers: Infinity War. The film releases today, and despite a focused digital release in about 2,000 screens only, it is certain to break records by margins that are stunning, and almost ridiculously so. 2015’s Furious 7 (released in India as Fast & Furious 7) remains the biggest Hollywood opener in India at about 12 Cr (nett collections). The last Avengers film (Age Of Ultron) opened at about 11 Cr. The Jungle Book (2016) is the only other film to open upward of 10 Cr in India.

 

How emphatically can you break a record that stands at 12 Cr? 15-16 Cr will be emphatic enough. But here, we are looking at a minimum of 20 Cr, if not 25 (or dare I say, even higher). And this is only the first-day box office that we speak about. The film is certain to cross 200 Cr at the India box office, even if its content doesn’t work. No Hollywood film in India has achieved that yet. And if the content supports, we can be looking at 250-300 Cr, if not higher.

 

This can be a huge moment in the history of cinema in India, whose real impact will be known and understood only over the next year or two. So far, despite year-on-year growth, Hollywood has been second to Bollywood in India. In 2011-12, Hollywood was less than 20% of Bollywood’s total box office business in India. Growing year-on-year, it touched 31% in

 

Avengers: Infinity War can be that watershed film that changes this equation significantly. India is one of the few global markets where the local film industry has survived the onslaught of big-budget Hollywood franchise films over the last two decades. And that will probably not be a worry in the immediate future either. But the gap can reduce significantly, as more and more youth come into the theatrical fold, with their content of preference being Hollywood over Indian.

 

Dubbed versions have played an important role in the growing Hollywood business in India. 40-60% of business of big franchise films comes from Hindi, Tamil & Telugu versions, despite these versions operating at somewhat lower ticket prices than the English versions. As Hollywood content travels deeper into small towns with Avengers, the dubbed versions will fuel the growth, and once the dubbed contribution crosses 70%, we will be looking at ‘Hindi vs. Hindi’ (or ‘Telugu vs. Telugu’ and ‘Tamil vs. Tamil’) scenarios, not ‘English vs. Hindi’.

 

Bahubali 2 was a one-off, as mentioned in last year’s article linked above. But Avengers: Infinity War won’t be. And that’s why, this last Friday of April 2018 is probably the most significant day in the history of ‘Indian’ cinema in a long, long time.

 

 

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