While Bollywood is keeping mum about the release dates of big ventures, the Big Boys from across the Atlantic have already lined up their content pipeline for the Indian market this year.
Come February 19, and the first Hollywood release for 2021 - the battling cat-and-mouse duo Tom & Jerry - will hit the screens in India.
The film is expected to draw in the family audience, which is still shying away, back to the theatres.
"Hollywood animation films are a good draw in India and have the ability to get families to theatres. Having said that, Tom & Jerry is not a huge brand among kids in India. Hence, the film will not have a huge demand. But it will definitely get some families to the theatres, especially in the metro cities," Shailesh Kapoor, CEO, Ormax Media, a media consulting firm, told Moneycontrol.
The film, which is likely to release in around 600 screens in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu along with the English version, is expected to do a business of Rs six to seven crore.
A family affair
While Tom & Jerry may not be a big box office churner, it can get the remaining 35 percent footfalls that the family audience accounts for back to theatres. Exhibitors and experts have similar expectations from big Bollywood ventures like Salman Khan's Radhe and Akshay Kumar's Sooryavanshi. However, there is yet no announcement regarding the release dates of these films.
Even Preetham Daniel, Senior Vice President, Asia, Harkness Screens, thinks that Tom & Jerry will attract the family audience.
"The film resonates with multiple age groups. Parents have grown up watching Tom & Jerry. So, strong nostalgic factor will work. The teenage audience is going to come for the physical comedy and apparently there is an Indian wedding setting in the movie. And the kids have got Tom & Jerry as their hero that they are going to grow up with."
After the recent release of Tamil blockbuster Master a lot of the fear factor is gone, Daniel added. "While animation movies haven’t done well in India, Tom & Jerry is different as the Indian audience doesn’t see the movie as live action film."
Along with Tom & Jerry, there are many other Hollywood ventures that are scheduled to release in the upcoming months in India.
Upcoming Hollywood content
There is also the much-awaited No Time To Die, the 25th instalment in the James Bond film series with Daniel Craig as the superspy, and also Marvel's Black Widow which will release in Indian theatres in April.
Then there are films like Tom Cruise's Top Gun, Monster Hunter, Fast and Furious 9 that will be coming to theatres soon.
Daniel thinks that films like No Time To Die and Top Gun can change some numbers as these are strong Hollywood content.
Hollywood's growing business in India
Last year it was films like Tenet and Wonder Woman 1984 that came to the rescue of exhibitors when they had little content to run in theatres. Tenet did a business of around Rs 12 crore whereas Wonder Woman 1984 minted around Rs 15 crore at the Indian box office.
Also, Daniel said that while most of the other strong international markets remained closed, Hollywood still chose to release films in India, and that is because they see the strength here.
Talking about Hollywood's increasing business at the Indian box office, Kapoor said, "Hollywood contributed 15 percent to the Indian box office collections and nine percent to Indian footfalls in 2019. Hollywood's share has been going up year-on-year, from less than 10 percent three to four years ago to 15 percent, and is expected to go up further. About 40-50 percent of this box office comes from language dubbed versions."
Is Hollywood helping?
As to whether Hollywood is currently helping in the recovery of the Indian box office business, Daniel says it’s difficult to give a conclusive ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answer.
“Yes, because Tenet gave the required push to both cinemas and the Indian box office. It helped theatres open up."
And yet, that it not the whole story, as Daniel thinks that the local content is performing better at the box office.
While Hollywood came at the right time to kick-start the cinema business, it is mostly filling the blanks, he adds.
"When Wonder Woman 1984 released in December there was no other film. After Master, there is Tom & Jerry that will come in. Hollywood has stepped in to keep the pipeline full and fill in the blanks when local content is not ready for theatrical release," said Daniel.
Hollywood ventures may not be contributing in a big way like Vijay-starrer Master
, but it’s surely bringing in business for exhibitors and the film industry. And, like Daniel said, any business in these pandemic times is good.