Thursday, March 08, 2007

Thank You, Thank You Very Much...

Reinventing Bollywood
India's film industry is cranking out movies, but has yet to hit the box office jackpot. But that's about to change - and entrepreneurs are seizing the opportunity.

By Jason Overdorf
Business 2.0 Magazine
March 6 2007

[India's] teeming film industry, known as Bollywood, is extraordinarily prolific. Indian filmmakers churn out 1,000 movies each year. Yet the industry grossed just $1.5 billion in 2005, and only a handful of movies made it to first-run theaters overseas. Compare that with Hollywood, which pumped out 563 movies that year and made more than $18 billion at the box office, including $9.6 billion from international distribution. [...]

Bollywood has always been a haphazard affair. Half a dozen prominent families controlled it, but they weren't very businesslike. Movies started shooting with no scripts and little money. Stars disappeared midshoot for weeks at a time to vacation, go home, or work on another movie. Theater owners underreported ticket sales to avoid sharing revenue with producers. It was nearly impossible to figure out whether a movie had made money and, if so, how much.

In addition, Indian story lines did not appeal to many outside the country. To the Western eye, Bollywood movies were chaotic, [surreal]. [...] In a typical plot, the hero sang, danced, fought bad guys, got the girl, found his long lost brother, and wept on his mother's deathbed - for at least three hours.

[Ronnie Screwvala, one of the leading movie producers in India], broke into Bollywood in the late '90s, teaming up with anyone willing to work by his rules. [Screwvala's company, UTV Software Communications], has produced a dozen movies with all the earmarks of professional filmmaking: budgets, marketing and distribution plans, real preproduction, and three-month shoots.

The company distributes them worldwide and milks Hollywood-style ancillary revenue, from product placement to soundtrack rights and video-on-demand. Screwvala has also cut the running times and dumped the disorganized and stale story lines. [...]

[Screwvala compares] his experience to the days when Star Wars and other independent films paved the way for new genres in Hollywood. [...]
This year, along with his Indian films, [Screwvala is] partnering with Sony Pictures and Fox Searchlight on movies starring Chris Rock and Will Smith. [...]
News Corp. and Disney bought stakes in UTV last year. [...]

And its "new" business practices are spurring changes at competing studios. Contracts, budgets, and balance sheets are more common. So are shooting schedules, bigger marketing budgets, and the exploitation of ancillary revenue.

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, Indian films will generate $2.3 billion by 2010...

Now who could have predicted such an unlikely thing, almost exactly one year ago today, on March 1st, 2006...


Oh, right.


Blogger M Ali said...

"Further, it seems extremely likely that Bollywood will compete globally with Hollywood in the coming decades, to supply massively lucrative entertainment to an increasingly idle advanced-nation population."

Indian movie production will become more efficient. Got a loooooong way to go before they appeal to non-Indian audiences as well as Hollywood does though. China's much further ahead in that regard.

March 09, 2007 3:30 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

Will Smith is as big a Hollywood star as they come, and a Bollywood production company is involved in making a movie with him.

That said, I agree that Bollywood won't be as successful as Hollywood anytime soon.

But fifty years ago "Made in Japan" was synonymous with "cheap and simple to make", and now they're the world leaders in automobiles and consumer electronics. Twenty years ago South Korean automobiles were sold in America to people who couldn't afford anything better; now Hyundai is near the top of J.D. Power and Associates' "Initial Quality Survey", alongside the likes of Porsche, Lexus, Toyota, and Jaguar.

Point being that Hollywood is losing its grip on how to satisfy audiences, and there are plenty of opportunities for someplace else to take away their crown.

March 09, 2007 4:24 AM  
Blogger M Ali said...

Yeah, but you don't need sub-titles to run a Lexus or a Walkman. Korea's film industry hasn't stomped its' way to dominance like it has in consumer electronics.

The popularity of English will continue to give Hollywood the edge, an edge that may get more pronounced in time as globalisation solidifies. Heck, even India's best-known writers write English literature.

It would give a thrill to think the leftie Hollywood crowd will see their jobs outsourced to Mumbai, but it's unlikely to happen.

Developments like these will make certain Indian production entities more effective players than their competition. But it doesn't entail much for expanding the audience beyond the sub-continent and its' diaspora.

March 09, 2007 7:15 AM  
Blogger EVadvocate said...


I think the point that Oro was trying to make is that Indian companies are becoming good at making movies. Your response was, "Yeah, but they're not good movies."

Well sure, not yet. But their ability to make good movies is getting better all the time. It is much more difficult to find skilled lighting technicians, cameramen, sound engineers, film editors, etc., than it is to find a good script and actors who can speak English.

Imagine an artistically minded producer who wants to see a particular movie made. Using the same script and actors she can have the movie done by a Hollywood studio for $86M or a Bollywood studio for $10M. In the end you have the same story, the same English speaking actors, the same quality of production, but at a much lower cost.

I see Bollywood swallowing up Hollywood in the next twenty years.

March 09, 2007 12:01 PM  
Blogger Ali Choudhury said...


My point is even if they make better movies that doesn't mean they're offering a product that's substitutable for Hollywood.

Hollywood specialises in expensive, star-laden blockbusters with lots of cutting-edge FX. The stars, directors - and even the adaptations made of characters like Harry Potter, Batman and Hannibal Lecter - tend to be globally recognisable. Bollywood movies are pretty much all vehicles for the likes of Shahrukh Khan, Ashwariya Rai and Hrithak Roshan. They're superstars in India but don't sell elsewhere like Brad Pitt and Will Smith do.

Outside of Hollywood, European, South American and Asian cinema has carved out a nice in art-house fare, quirky comedies, anime and innovative action movies since they can't compete with Hollywood budgets. Bollywood doesn't do any of that.

Bollywood producers will be able to secure some English-speaking actors and they already do so. But if those movies don't feature Indian stars or Hollywood superstars, who's going to watch them?

I'm not sure how you can come up with an $86m figure for a US production and a $10m one for an Indian one. If the same producers, writers and actors are involved their salary demands will be just as high. That is where most of the cost arises from.

March 09, 2007 4:10 PM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

I think the point that Oro was trying to make is that Indian companies are becoming good at making movies.

Just so.

Bollywood movies are pretty much all vehicles for [Ashwariya Rai].

Nothing wrong with that. She's a 10, on a scale of 1 - 8.

If the same producers, writers and actors are involved their salary demands will be just as high. That is where most of the cost arises from.

There is some truth to that, but it's not the whole truth.

That's why a lot of production companies, especially in television, even those working with "big names", film in Canada, Hungary, the Czech Republic, or New Zealand.

Hollywood specialises in expensive, star-laden blockbusters with lots of cutting-edge FX.

Yes, that's their specialty, but it's only half of their business.

Hollywood also makes a lot of run-of-the-mill TV shows, and direct-to-DVD films.

That's where foreign studios can make their hay, especially since the demand for content on cable TV is large and ever-growing.

I like the avatar, by the way.

March 10, 2007 2:45 AM  

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