How Hollywood has made a successful journey in India from 1994 to 2019

Since the release of Jurassic Park in 1994, Hollywood has had a steady presence in the Indian market. After occasional big successes in the first two decades, things have become very bright for the Western cinema for the last four years as their market share has grown quickly owing to some big blockbusters. This article offers a glimpse of the journey of Hollywood films in India since 1994 till date.

At the time of writing this article, 'The Lion King' had grossed in excess of 150 crores at the Indian box office which makes it the fifth highest-grossing film of the year. It has already crossed the business of Hrithik Roshan's 'Super 30' and Akshay Kumar's 'Kesari'. But it is not the top Hollywood film of 2019 in India. That honour goes to 'Avengers: Endgame' which earned a staggering 365 crore at the Indian box office. After more than 2 decades of presence in India, Hollywood is finally coming into its own now in India. Let's have a look at the journey of Hollywood in India since 1994 when the first dubbed film was released in India.

Phase 1 – 1994 to 2003

The dubbing business started in the year 1994 in India with the release of the mega-smash 'Jurassic Park'. The movie was a correct choice as the first dubbed film, as the effort was to differentiate the movies from the west from their Indian counterparts. Unlike Indian cinema, the songs and dances don't form a part of most of the movies in Hollywood. So they needed to sell a spectacle to bring the audience to the theatre. Here the technical prowess of Hollywood came to the fore. The world of dinosaurs was a fascinating subject and the movie was well promoted too. When the movie opened, the audience was awestruck with the technical finesse of the movie. The Indian audience had never seen such brilliant cinematography or visual effects of that level. The movie was a runaway hit and it opened the doors for Hollywood in India. Very soon, movies like 'Speed', 'Universal Soldier' and 'Baby's Day Out' were being screened in the theatres across India. In spite of the increase in the releases, big success eluded Hollywood. Very few films after Jurassic Park were able to do well at the Box office, one of which was its sequel 'The Lost World'. The wait for the next blockbuster got over in 1998 with the release of 'Titanic'.

Titanic was an unconventional blockbuster as nobody expected it to do very well at the Indian box office. Yes, the movie was already popular owing to its massive budget and its record haul of 11 awards at the Academy Awards that year, but few expected it to be received so well in India as the movie was not dubbed. However, once people found how the movie was very Indian at heart (a poor boy falling in love with a rich girl and the tragic ending), the audience flocked to the theatre and Titanic turned out to be a blockbuster. In spite of this, Hollywood still didn't get to see any significant success for a long time.

Phase 2 – Early 2003 to 2015

By 2003, the share of Hollywood films had increased steadily in India, though it was still minuscule when compared to Bollywood alone. The studios made one major change in their strategy that year. Since Jurassic Park in 1994, Hollywood films had always been released in India after a gap ranging from few weeks to months. Other than a few exceptions like 'Spider-man' in 2002, which was released after a week of its US debut, the Indian audience had to wait a bit more than their western counterparts. It all changed in Nov 2003 when Warner Bros decided to give 'The Matrix Revolutions' a simultaneous release in India. It was a time when Hollywood films had started earning a great deal of money overseas and the idea was to earn maximum money with a simultaneous roll-out in major territories across the world. It turned out to be a good move, as not only did the Indian audience get to see the big movies on the same day as their release in the USA, it also helped made tent poles popular in India. As superhero films started getting popular, the market in India also expanded. 'Spider-man 3' in 2007 became a big hit and confirmed that superhero craze was there to stay for a long time. It was also the time when the multiplex culture was slowly taking place in India which would also give a boost to Hollywood in the future. Even after the occasional big success in India, nobody had thought of it as a serious threat to Bollywood. It all changed in Nov 2009 when '2012' knocked out 'Tum Mile'.

2012 had developed quite a momentum by the time of its release due to its terrific trailer consisting of special effects and the relentless media focus on the year 2012. But nobody expected it to beat a Bollywood movie with hit music. The super success of 2012 and 'Avatar' a month later made Bollywood realize that it would be a mistake to take Hollywood lightly.

Phase 3 – 2015 till date

In 2015 'Furious 7' became the highest-grossing Hollywood movie sans inflation when it grossed around 94 crores. The success of this movie proved that branding can make Hollywood work in a big way. The Fast and Furious series had built up quite a fan base after six films in just over a decade. It became clear that a 100-crore Hollywood grosser won't be far. But the first 100-crore grosser turned out to be quite an unexpected movie.

When Disney released 'The Jungle Book' in 2016, it was banking on the voice-overs of the big actors from Indian cinema, as well as general nostalgia for the film to work. Nobody had expected the film to go on and become a blockbuster. It had a strong beginning and legged it like a big Bollywood movie. The movie eventually ended its run with around 188 crores. This was another clue for the studio executives. The Lion King this year was even more aggressively promoted even though it didn't have that kind of appeal that 'The Jungle Book' movie had.

But it was the success of 'Avengers: Infinity War' and Avengers: Endgame that really tells the story of Hollywood success in India. Both movies shattered various box office records and remain the top openers of all time. The efforts of the studios in investing in brand building in India finally paid off. The executives have known through the experience of more than two decades that cinema works in a different way in India. It is not possible to capture the market like they did in Europe and many Asian markets. The key is to get the maximum out of the movies that have the potential to do well. The future bodes well for Hollywood, and in the long run for Bollywood, too, as the latter will focus more on content than just trying to mimic their western counterparts. Of course, the audience will be eventual winner!


Author: Anamika Raj28 Aug 2019 Member Level: Gold   Points : 3

Hollywood indeed has influenced the Indian audience. So much that there is more craze for Hollywood movies in India than Bollywood ones. The modern way of writing, better cinematography effects, enhanced acting, catchy dialogues make Hollywood movies a success overall.

The demand for sci-fi, fantasy and thriller movies is the most in the Indian market since our own industry has yet not been able to produce any such good quality movie. A few have tried but failed badly. Some examples are Love Story 2050, Ra.One etc.

The taste of Indian audience has enhanced and they want to spend money and time on better and creative scripts. Bollywood acknowledges this new taste and is trying to enhance the quality of its movies and to make it more creative instead of just creating remakes, autobiographies and dubbing Hollywood movies.

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