Chennai: Hollywood films have shown steady growth in India year-on-year. However, this year has been phenomenal as the domestic box office collections of the top five Hollywood titles stood at over a staggering Rs.500 crore ($75 million).
With films such as "Fast and Furious 7" (Rs.155 crore) and "Jurassic World" (Rs.103 crore) making it to the once elusive Rs.100 crore club like a walk in the park, the odds have finally shifted in favour of the big studios.
What's the secret behind their success?
It's the unparalleled reach of Hollywood films, says film critic and entertainment industry tracker Sreedhar Pillai.
"By dubbing their films in regional languages such as Tamil and Telugu, most studios have taken Hollywood content to the common man. What were once considered films strictly for multiplex audiences, cater to even people in B and C centres today," Pillai told IANS.
Clearly, Universal Pictures' move to release their films in regional languages has paid off, he added.
"Both 'Fast and Furious 7' and 'Jurassic World' released in over a thousand screens in India. While most studios were hesitant to explore the regional market, Universal Pictures showed the way forward by releasing these films in Tamil and Telugu," he said.
Concurring Pillai's point of view, Rajendra Singh, vice president - Programming and Distribution, INOX LEISURE, said: "Today, the number of Hollywood movies dubbed into other Indian languages has increased considerably, which has added to its good performance at the box office. Movies like 'Mission Impossible', 'Spectre', and 'The Martian' have been dubbed in at least two Indian languages".
Does he agree to the fact that Hollywood films can give Indian cinema neck-to-neck competition?
"Indian cinema holds a very special place in our psyche. Hindi cinema consists of the largest chunk of movies that come out of this country. Cinema in other Indian languages like Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Bengali, Punjabi, among others, contribute hugely to this pie.
"I personally think it is difficult for Hollywood movies to match this contribution, however, the release of these movies in other Indian languages has proved to be highly favorable over the years," Singh saud.
A leading Tamil film producer, however, has a different opinion.
"This year witnessed a wide release of many Hollywood films. The Tamil dubbed version of 'Fast and Furious 7', which released in April, did exceptional business despite the release of multiple Tamil films in the same month. It's going to get very tough," he explained.
While action films such as "Fast and Furious 7", "Avengers: Age of Ultron" (Rs.78 crore) , and "Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (Rs.69 crore) appealed to the masses, Vijay Singh, CEO, Fox Star Studios says there is also "general upsurge in interest in genres which hitherto were considered niche in India, like the sci-fi genre".
"The Indian audience is evolving and interest in Hollywood films is growing. The success of 'The Martian' is the best example. The appetite for good entertaining films is increasing, be it Hollywood or Bollywood," he said.
Alfonso Cuaron's sci-fi drama "Gravity" was a blockbuster in India. Pillai says the human element worked in its favour.
In 2016, Pillai believes, the market for Hollywood films in the country is only poised to grow.
"It totally depends on the marketing muscle of the studio. It's time they start adopting day-and-date release strategy," he said.
"One of the reasons 'Spectre' didn't do so well in India because it had released worldwide a few weeks ago and by the time it released in the country, piracy had killed its prospects at the ticket window. When it comes to big action films, studios should look at releasing on the same day across all key markets," he added.
(Haricharan Pudipeddi can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is a part of a series of articles from IANS that look back at the year that was for a variety of subjects, running up to the New Year)