This year, for the first time ever, we had three Hollywood films cross that magical, self-assigned milestone: the 100 crore mark. Who would have thought that in a year that gave us 3 huge box office champions (Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Baahubali and Prem Ratan Dhan Payo), we would be left not admiring their excellent performance at the box office, which, let’s face it, was entirely expected, but the triumph of the perpetual underdog: Hollywood.
While this was a year that hit all the usual beats as far as box office earnings go in India, we seem to have witnessed the beginning of what appears to be a major change in the way things work here.
This was the year where Furious 7 became the highest grossing Hollywood film ever in India with 172 crore ($26 million). This was the year that Jurassic World trounced all competition on its way to a $1.6 billion gross worldwide, of which 152 crore ($23 million) came from the land of Shah Rukh Khan. And to top it all off, in flew the Avengers with their harder, better, faster, stronger sequel Avengers: Age of Ultron, making 111 crore ($16.8 million), eclipsing the original Avengers, which peaked at 83 crore ($12.6 million) back in 2012.
While this isn’t the first time that Hollywood movies have brushed the 100 crore mark – Avatar was the only film to have crossed that milestone when it released to record breaking numbers back in 2009, although it made most of its money in 2010 – this year had three. If you were to take inflation into account, which we aren’t, James Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster Titanic (which held the record for being the highest grossing movie ever for 12 years) would also be included with its 119 crore gross in 2015 money.
Even Tom Cruise’s fifth Mission Impossible film, Rogue Nation, made a stunning debut of 42 crore making it the great action star’s biggest opening in India since the previous entry Mission: Impossible-Ghost Protocol scored the record for the biggest Hollywood opening in India with 16 crore back in 2011.
Impressive as these numbers may be, they still don’t hold a candle to the kind of dough Bollywood movies rake in. Remember those three behemoths we mentioned earlier? Well Bajrangi Bhaijaan made 626 crore ($93 million), Baahubali and all its visual splendour attracted 600 crore ($90 million) and just in case you’d forgotten Salman Khan despite his weekly television appearances (either on Bigg Boss or on a late night news channel debate about his multiple courtroom dramas), he charmed his way to another 400 crore ($60 million) with his ‘90s throwback Prem Ratan Dhan Payo.
#Spectre scores the HIGHEST weekend for a Bond film. Thu previews 2.26 cr, Fri 6.14 cr, Sat 7.28 cr, Sun 7.82 cr. Total: ₹ 23.50 cr [nett].— taran adarsh (@taran_adarsh) November 23, 2015
Speaking of Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, it was the reason Spectre was delayed here for two weeks. But it made quite a noise when it debuted to 23 crore in its opening weekend, the best of all the Bond movies. And while Salman Khan was the smirking villain that beat James Bond in a game of box office chicken, Shah Rukh was Dark Side personified when Dilwale delayed Star Wars: The Force Awakens by a week.
#StarWars enjoys great buzz among the movie-going audience and its business should escalate over the weekend. Strong word of mouth!— taran adarsh (@taran_adarsh) December 26, 2015
Don’t get us wrong, releasing these big Hollywood movies in direct competition with major domestic films would have been a bad idea on numerous levels. Not only would people not be interested in watching Star Wars on the same weekend they could be watching something more familiar, but logistically speaking, films like Dilwale and Bajirao Mastani would’ve eaten up most of the screens anyway.
So where does that leave us? Like China, which is currently in the middle of something of a cinema boom despite its strict laws on the number of foreign films that can be shown there in a given year, India too is witnessing a change, albeit on a much smaller scale. While China’s growth can be chalked down to the dramatic increase in the number of screens, there could be a more nuanced reason for the change in India. Certainly, tastes are evolving. Piracy is a double-edged sword, impacting revenues but also turning audiences into fans of shows like Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad.
The Indian connect always helps, as we saw with Irrfan Khan and Life of Pi, which took in 88 crore back in 2012, and Irrfan Khan with The Amazing Spider-Man which stunned with an opening weekend record and a final gross of 96 crore, again in 2012. And it all culminated with Irrfan Khan and Jurassic World, which interestingly earned more in India than any of his Bollywood movies this year.
Things will only improve. That can safely be assumed. While some properties have a greater pull here than others (Fast and Furious will always attract more crowds than Star Wars or Hunger Games), the audience will no doubt grow with each passing year.
Here are the top ten highest earning Hollywood films in India
1. Furious 7 - $26 million (172 crore)
2. Avatar - $24 million (145 crore)
3. Jurassic World - $23 million (152 crore)
4. Avengers: Age of Ultron – $16.8 million (111 crore)
5. Spider-Man 3 – $16.4 million (108 crore)
6. 2012 - $15.6 million (102 crore)
7. The Amazing Spider-Man - $14.5 million (96 crore)
8. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 - $13.6 million (90 crore)
9. Life of Pi - $13.3 million (88 crore)
10. Titanic - $12.7 million (84 crore)
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The author tweets @NaaharRohan