A feature in Rediff outlines some key reasons why the dollar-and-pound overseas territories matter for producers and filmmakers in Bollywood today (link). Even modest 3-4 week runs in cities like New York, L.A., London, and Toronto make a significant difference and currency rates aside, here is another important factor:
The importance of the $40 million overseas market is understood better when the returns to the producers are factored in. In India, because of the exorbitant entertainment tax, a producer gets just about 35 percent of the box-office gross. But from a film’s gross abroad, a producer can net about 55 percent.
The feature also points out that Sony’s first Bollywood venture – Saawariya – will be closely watched to see if a better exhibition strategy makes a dent in digital piracy.
The market could also benefit if Bollywood films are released in more upscale theatres. In recent years, a few distributors like Yash Raj have shown their films in multiplexes that also screen mainstream movies. The situation could alter dramatically when Sony releases its first Hindi language film, Saawariya, in over 80 theatres across the country in November. Most Hindi films are released in about 60 theatres in North America.
And the most interesting part of this feature revolves around the problem of defining the market/audience and tracking sales (ticket sales, revenues, etc.). We know that this remains difficult to do within India – sales figures are fuzzy because under-reporting continues to be a problem and while multiplex pricing seems fairly standard across the country, ticket prices in single screen cinema halls vary a lot (even within the same city). And as Tejaswini Ganti documents, knowledge regarding territories and audiences is generated in and through well-established social networks among directors, producers, distributors and exhibitors. I’m struck by how this model of information-flow is, at least partially, defining Bollywood’s imagination of the overseas territories as well –
The calls and e-mail messages start flowing early in Toronto one Sunday evening, and the producers of new big budget films won’t have an idea if their films are on their way to being a hit or an also-ran film or a flop till they have pored over the weekend figures from New York, London, Dubai and in recent weeks, Australia.
Who are these people making calls and sending emails? Are they established exhibitors like Shiraz Jivani (of Naz 8 cinema in California)? What kind of work do U.S./U.K.-based distribution offices of key players like Yashraj Films perform? Do film journalists based in these dollar-pound countries track sales/revenues as a matter of routine? How does this information flow back to “trade-analysts” like Taran Adarsh in Bombay? I think it’ll be fun to come up with a map of this social/information network. Stay tuned.