With Covid forcing producers to give theatres here the go-by, Hindi films are being screened in cinema halls overseas to tap the vast Indian diaspora
Akshay Kumar-starrer Laxmii became the first big Bollywood venture since March to be released in select overseas markets.
The film released simultaneously on Disney+Hotstar and in international markets, including Australia and New Zealand, on November 9.
While the film was not released in Indian theatres, Disney+Hotstar, which has bought the streaming rights to the film for around Rs 100 crore, couldn't let go off the opportunity of releasing Laxmii in international markets.
Overseas box office collections are now an important component for the box office business. Last year, for example, around Rs 2,700 crore came from international markets, according to an EY report.
A modest show
Laxmii has collected over Rs 2 crore from the select overseas markets and the major contribution has come from the UAE circuit.
According to data by Comscore, a media measurement and analytics company, Laxmii was able to collect around Rs 1.46 crore in the UAE in seven days of its release.
In New Zealand and Australia, the film minted Rs 42 lakh and Rs 70 lakh, respectively, in three days of its release.
In smaller international markets such as Fiji and Papua New Guinea, Laxmii collected Rs 17 lakh and Rs 18,000, respectively.
While the film's overseas box office collections are not significant, it is important to note that Laxmii was released in only a few markets. Plus, the film is available in the US, UK and Canada on Disney+ and these circuits are big contributors to the theatrical business of Indian films.
According to the FICCI-EY 2020 report, USA/Canada and UK comprise around 30 percent of total overseas theatrical revenues for Indian films.
Tapping the diaspora
While Laxmii saw a simultaneous release on Disney+ and in theatres, other films this year also turned to overseas markets for extra income after being released on video streaming platforms.
Disney+Hotstar released films such as Sushant Singh-starrer Dil Bechara, Alia Bhatt's Sadak 2 and Lootcase in international markets. Dil Bechara, which released in New Zealand and Fiji in September, collected around Rs 23 lakh and Rs 11 lakh, respectively, from the two markets during its opening weekend.
Even Zee Studios had released its film, Khaali Peeli, starring Ishaan Khatter and Ananya Pandey, overseas last month. On day one, the film saw limited traction in the US and New Zealand, where it grossed around Rs 26,000 from 11 screens and Rs 30,000 from seven screens, respectively.
Different plan for India
While Zee and Disney are looking at a theatrical release internationally, there seems to be no plan of replicating the same model in India. Although major multiplex chains are not in agreement about exhibiting direct-to-digital releases in cinemas, single-screen exhibitors have showed a willingness to release films such as Dil Bechara and Laxmii.
Film trade experts say that both the films would have found traction in theatres despite being available online as there still is a significant population that may not consume content online.
In fact, audiences were eagerly waiting for Dil Bechara to release in Indian theatres. As for Laxmii, experts said that despite the negative reviews the film received, it would have worked in Indian theatres.
Akshay Kumar’s Housefull 4, which had released last year in theatres, was called illogical and unfunny. Yet, the film grossed over Rs 200 crore in India alone. On its opening day, the film had 60-70 percent occupancy in single-screen theatres.
Currently, even international studios are opting for simultaneous release on OTT and in theatres. Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman 1984 will release in US cinemas as well as on HBO Max on December 25. The film is likely to release a week before in India.
Citing Wonder Woman 1984, experts said that for Indian films, studios would have to look at a theatrical release in both overseas and domestic markets for stronger collections.