Hollywood biz booming at Indian box office, all thanks to big franchises

In 2018, Hollywood saw big franchises get bigger at the Indian box office. From superhero films to animation, studios put their might behind their tent-pole releases quarter on quarter, and reaped the rewards. Disney-owned Marvel Studios, which celebrated 10 years of the (MCU) this year, scored big with the highest-grossing Hollywood film in the country – Avengers: Infinity War, which earned Rs 2.2 billion (net of tax) at the domestic box office. This, in a year when none of the Khans’ films managed to breach the Rs 2-billion mark.

“In Hollywood, it’s been the year of Marvel characters. Whether you look at Avengers at the top-notch Rs 3 billion gross box office (GBO) or even other Marvel (character) films like Deadpool, Black Panther, Venom getting close to the Rs 500-million mark powered by younger viewers. Our Paramount franchise that’s been around — Mission Impossible — touched a new high at Rs 1.3-billion GBO. The third story in Hollywood segment is horror; in particular The Conjuring Universe, where even a spinoff like Nun touched Rs 600-million GBO. So yes, franchises is the way forward for studios but you still have to deliver a great film,” says Ajjit Andhare, COO, Viacom18 Motion Pictures.

The animated film about a superhero family — Incredibes 2 — became the highest-grossing animated film from Hollywood in India with a net collection of Rs 420 million. Other franchise movies that had successful outings at the Indian box office include Deadpool 2, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Black Panther, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Mission: Impossible — Fallout, and The Nun.


“2018 has been a year of many firsts. Fans loved the high-octane Super Hero action drama in Avengers: Infinity War, making it the highest Hollywood grosser in the country and the same audience broke the pre-conceived barriers on animation as a family entertainer as they embraced the story of a unique family in Incredibles 2. This has been truly fascinating to see,” says Bikram Duggal, head — Studio entertainment, India.

Franchise films are no longer just sequels to previous installments. With reboots and spinoffs, Hollywood studios are now building cinematic universes. So, while the Transformers movies have a linear storyline from one film to another, Paramount also has Bumblebee rolling out in 2019, the back-story of one of the most popular characters from the films. Marvel started the trend in 2008 with the MCU, and the model has gained popularity with studios across the board. Even non-superhero content has adopted this strategy, for example horror franchises.

“Driving the main market through bigger tent-poles such as Avengers or Transformers and following that up with other characters like & spinsoffs such as BumbleBee is the way to develop this market. Studios strategising right are doing precisely that,” Andhare says.

Localisation has become a big chunk of the studios’ strategy to market Hollywood films in the country.

“Localisation of Hollywood is all about making the movies more accessible to tier 2 and tier 3 centres where people want to watch a Hollywood film on the big screen but in their own language. The impact of localisation has grown immensely with studios sharpening their focus on making films more palatable for audiences in India. This includes smart scripting and dubbing of the original content,” says Vijay Singh, CEO, Fox Star Studios.

Andhare, however adds that with younger audiences — who have exposure to global content — forming the bulk of audience for Hollywood films, localisation may have to be restricted to certain projects, rather than being the thumbrule for Hollywood releases in India. “When Wonder Woman, and Deadpool succeed, you know that the younger, more globally-connected consumer is powering the films’ collections. So in that sense, localisation wasn’t needed. It’s our audience becoming more global rather than these films being localised,” he explains.

Going in to 2019, the Hollywood slate for India gives studios optimism or another stellar year. Franchise films will continue to be the focus, whether it is Avengers: Endgame from Marvel, or spinoffs like Bumblebee from Paramount, or Men in Black 4 from Sony Pictures Entertainment.

“Hollywood movies’ box office in India will definitely see an exponential growth with the kind of films 2019 will witness. Multiplexes will certainly play a big role to boost the same as the screen count for big-ticket Hollywood title is always on the rise. Allotting more shows, rooted promotional strategies and fan engagement at multiplexes also helps build a greater appeal,” says Singh.

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