Avengers: The Marvelous India Story

10 May,2019

An Amul ad capturing the popularity of the latest Avengers release

 

By Shailesh Kapoor

 

Two weekends ago, Avengers: Endgame released in India as easily the most-anticipated Hollywood film ever. At a staggering 52 Cr+ business on the first day (net of GST), the film beat the record of the previous film in the franchise (Avengers: Infinity War) by a wide 60% margin. Not only that, it beat the biggest Hindi opener till date too, surpassing the opening-day collections of Thugs Of Hindostan, without having the benefit of a huge nationwide holiday like the Aamir Khan film.

 

Avengers: Endgame is on course to do 375-400 Cr business in India, which will beat the lifetime box office record held by Avengers: Infinity War by about 150 Cr. Normally, such records are broken after a gap of a few years, because ticket rates go up and new multiplexes open up, giving films a wider number to achieve on the same demand. But that’s not the case in the Avengers example. The market scenario is largely similar to last year, barring a reduction in GST on movie tickets. A steep 150-Cr growth in just 12 months clearly highlights the growing equity and stature of brand Marvel in India.

 

If one was to do a list of the most powerful media brands in India, there’s very high chance that Marvel will top it. In a country where the language barrier itself limits the reach of International content, how the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has managed to penetrate itself, through not just metros or mini-metros but the smallest of towns, is a testimony of what genuine movie craze can be. The language accessibility helps, and the dubbed versions have contributed more than 40% of the box office of Avengers: Endgame. But even with that, the mainstream, mass status MCU has acquired in India, one film after the other, is an achievement to marvel at.

 

This genuine movie craze is about a deep and organic connect built with the characters in MCU. There are films like Thugs Of Hindostan, and the various Salman Khan films, where the lead star has massive appeal, and if you prop up the promotions leading up to the release, you build the requisite “hype” and the film opens well, and thereafter, the content takes over to decide how long its legs are.

 

But there’s a difference between “hype” and “craze”. MCU films, especially the bigger ones, are success stories based on craze, not hype. As was Bahubali 2. But almost every other film that’s big-ticket is a hype product. Hype doesn’t lead to genuine craze. It propels audience to visit the theatre, often because it’s the in-thing to do, and one doesn’t want to miss out on riding the hype wave. It’s an inorganic, marketing-driven way of getting a film to open well. More like a consumer push.

 

But when there’s genuine craze, the hype builds organically on its own. Avengers: Endgame was being marketed by crazy fans in digital media and the real, offline world. The much-written about late night and early morning shows on the opening day could have been a marketing ploy by another film, but in this case, it was a certification of the craze that existed. A consumer pull that’s so strong that the film belongs to its audience even before they have seen it.

 

We are in a push marketing era in general. Bombarded with messaging across online and traditional media, consumption of content and brands is often a function of one brand outshouting the other. In such a marketing climate, Avengers: Endgame is a rare exception that stands out. Can anything Indian, on TV or in films, match up to this level of craze anytime soon?

 

 

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