'Inside The Box' is a series in which we will take a deeper-dive into the Box Office collections and web numbers of major films released across India.
The latest James Bond film, No Time To Die, which released theatrically in India last Thursday, has emerged as one of the most successful weekend grossers since the beginning of the pandemic. Collecting 11.75 crores net as per Box Office India in its four-day extended weekend courtesy Gandhi Jayanti on Saturday, the film has seen massive footfalls all across the country. Additionally, the film – Daniel Craig's final outing as Bond – has earned $119m across the world, setting new international Box Office records.
One of the biggest reasons of the film's successful opening in India also has to do with the fact that major states, including Telangana, Karnataka and Rajasthan, have now allowed 100% occupancy in theatres, the results of which have been encouraging. In those states, according to Kamal Gianchandani, CEO, PVR Pictures, "The occupancy rate is better than pre-pandemic levels."
Due to the unavailability of Maharashtra – with the theatres there reopening only on October 22 – along with limited occupancy rates and number of shows in most states, the film's collections can't be considered to be at par with pre-pandemic times yet. "The film would've collected a decent number from the state of Maharashtra, especially considering Mumbai and Pune are great centers for Hollywood films and the strong franchise that James Bond has, especially in India," says Gautam Jain, Partner at Ormax Media.
Jain further points out that world over, while the Bond films have taken a backseat when compared to other big franchises like Fast And Furious and Mission Impossible, its recall value in India remains quite strong. One of the reasons behind this popularity is the legacy held by the central character, James Bond, developed in the movies since 1962.
This legacy is key to the business of major Hollywood films in India. Be it the Bond movies, Marvel Cinematic Universe's Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings released last month, or even Christopher Nolan's Tenet, released in December last year – a big reason these films create an anticipation among the audience is because of a pre-set expectation that comes with the brands associated. Furthermore, films like No Time To Die, Shang-Chi and Tenet further offer the viewers an added motivation to venture out of their homes: a guarantee of 'spectacle entertainment' – best viewed on the big screen.
The dubbed versions of these films too prove to be of immense help when it comes to their reachability. As far as statistics go, an estimated 40-60% of the income of a Hollywood film comes from its dubbed content. No Time To Die, in fact, went a step further to become the first Hollywood film to be dubbed in Gujarati. "For a lot of people, watching films with subtitles is not the preferred method. In most of these spectacle films, the conversation tends to be limited – the dialogues are limited and the focus is on the action sequences – for example, in superhero films, disaster films or creature films like Godzilla. When you're going for the action, the spectacle, the VFX and 3D and visual effects, if it's in my own language, it adds to the experience," explains Jain.
However, this business is different from market to market and genre to genre. In multiplexes, for example, the original English version of the Bond films tend to have an edge over their dubbed versions. "In the case of Bond, the original version is doing better as Bond is a more cerebral protagonist," explains Gianchandani. However, for a franchise like Fast And Furious, where action is the focal point of the films, the gap between the Box Office performance of the original and dubbed versions reduces a fair bit. "Mass entertainers like Fast And Furious, and a few tentpole titles like The Avengers tend to narrow the gap between dubbed and original versions rather than films like Bond, where the original version is the clear winner," he says.
In smaller towns and single-screens, however, the dubbed versions are a massive hit. These franchise films, in fact, offer them a similar entertainment value as any other blockbuster masala entertainer would. "A lot of these films aren't really pre-set in any cultural ethos of a particular country or continent. These are quite universal," explains Rathi. "These are the movies that are very palatable to the grassroot audience in India and the dubbed versions help these films reach them."
Interestingly, another factor that has added to these films increasingly doing well is the lack of Box Office competition. While no major Hindi films have released alongside the Bond film, Shang-Chi or Tenet in the recent past, there have been very few formidable Box Office clashes from major Hindi movies. One explanation here can be that when there is a franchise film that is creating a certain buzz among the audience, producers tend to avoid releasing their films with them. Also, there is a certain leeway granted to several Hollywood films that enable them to release in different dates across continents. No Time To Die, for example, releases only on October 8 in the United States. "Many Hollywood films have a different release date in India in case there are other bigger films releasing on the planned release day. For example, if there is a film releasing on December 25 in the Indian market, a Spiderman may choose to release on December 17," Jain says.
However, with Maharashtra reopening its theatres later in October, big Hollywood and Indian films are expected to clash, including Sooryavanshi and Eternals in November and 83, Pushpa and The Matrix: Resurrections later in December. Will this affect either's Box Office numbers though? Unlikely. While ultimately, clashes in release dates are inevitable, what will ensure the success of any film is the difference in the target audience.
The only way to achieve this is for exhibitors and producers to work in tandem with the other. While the film fraternity has taken a big hit with a loss of over 4000 crores in the last two years, in order to ensure a steady flow of business, it becomes integral for the industry to work as a unit in order to maximize the Box Office impact of each title. "It only makes sense for all of us to align ourselves better as a production fraternity and an exhibition fraternity to try and see how we can minimize the cannibalization of the audience for each title and space out the films in a way that even if they are coming together, they are films that don't cater to the same demographic," Rathi says.
The good news? With the positive response – and complementing numbers – coming from the audience now that the theatres are gradually opening up, it's quite clear that they will head back if the content is right for them.