Palador Pictures, which sells and rents movies from around the world in India, was pleasantly surprised when it got orders for its DVD boxes—costing Rs 2,000 and up—from places like Jammu, the North East and the Andamans. UTV World Movies, a niche TV channel for international cinema, is so happy with the response that it’s now planning to take its movies to theatres and homes.
NDTV Lumiere, another initiative to bring world cinema into India, launched its theatrical release in May, following that up with home video & online releases and a pay TV channel. Yes, world cinema is playing everywhere—at multiplexes, on home video, on TV, on the Net.
“The overall response to world cinema has been good,” says Ranjan Singh, head, marketing, PVR Pictures, which runs cinema halls in many cities. It began with releasing a variety of films at select cinemas—at Juhu in Mumbai or Saket in New Delhi—but are now slowly entering into other locations. “We had organised a small festival in Indore with NDTV Lumiere,” says Singh, “and the response was encouraging.”
The response to home video too has been an eye-opener for many. Says Gautam Sikhnis, founder and MD, Palador Pictures: “We were sure of the potential of world cinema in the country. Our sales figures show the amazing hunger for quality cinema in the country.”
Palador has sold 2,000 units each of its 40 titles. It wants to touch the half-million-mark by March 2010. Palador is also launching its TV channel. Its Bergman festival, conducted across six cities, was a huge draw. “The response to Bergman was... unexpected. We had not expected such an outpouring all over the country,” says Sikhnis.
On television too, the response to world cinema has been excellent, says Shantonu Aditya, executive director, UTV Global Broadcasting Ltd. “We are six months old, and on an average we are already doing 50% of HBO numbers,” he points out. Satisfied with the TV foray, Aditya says UTV is getting ready for theatre and home video releases. “We are talking to a few players in home video and will announce a tie-up in the next 45-60 days,” he said, adding, “by the end of the year, we will also show Che, a biography of Che Guevara, which was released at Cannes this year.”
It’s been a great year for world cinema in India, but is it commercially viable? “Yes,” says Sikhnis, “if we release the films across all platforms.” PVR’s Singh feels that, “All efforts will have to be made to increase the market size.” Aditya is more forthright: “We should be able to make it commercially viable in the next few months.”
UTV is betting on advertisers for its TV channel and looking at revenues from the digital pay channels. “We have tied up with Tata Sky, Reliance, Sun Direct and Airtel. We see our future in direct-to-home television,” Aditya adds.
NDTV Lumiere, which is making films available across platforms, is focusing on developing the market, by creating a habit in Indians for watching world cinema. “A concept we have developed is ‘Destination Theatres’,” says Dhruvank Vaidya, senior vice-president, new ventures, NDTV Lumiere. “These are select theatres across the country where a film buff can get to watch a world cinema film every day. Some of these theatres are PVR Juhu and Fame Malad in Mumbai, PVR Saket in Delhi, PVR Forum Mall in Bangalore and Fame South City Mall in Kolkata. We are in the process of identifying more Destination Theatres.” The other important point, he says, is to have regular releases.
NDTV Lumiere releases a new film in theatres every week—“the idea is to bring world cinema in the regular Friday release radar.”
But all players agree that it’s a long road to sustained success. Says Singh of PVR: “As an exhibitor, I must say this is a nascent phase for world cinema in India. Though the response for such a genre of movies has been good so far, it’s yet a long way till this business proves to be a great opportunity.”
Though orders may be coming from remote corners, the audience base is just about increasing. The two TV channels will help reach out to more people. But, says Singh, world cinema needs better exposure, innovative marketing and a regular supply of content to yield better and bigger results. “It needs support from other exhibition chains and sponsorships for a mass reach,” he adds.
One avenue for growth is home video. Palador has tied up with Moser-Baer for 50 world movie titles, each DVD costing Rs 399. NDTV Lumiere has a tie-up with Excel Home Videos. Says Roby Abraham, CEO, Excel Home Videos: “We are currently exploiting this category at retail spaces in all major metros and mini-metros and through space taken in most film festivals and rental outlets. Our next step is to take this initiative to smaller cities.” World cinema, according to Abraham, has a very strong rental pull. “Most retail specific purchases in this category happen after seeing a great film either through a rented DVD or after watching it in the theatres,” he says. The world cinema business has always been a great opportunity, says Sikhnis, and has the potential to be greater with nurturing. “The idea is to educate the audience about quality cinema.”
But that’s the biggest challenge facing the proponents of world cinema. Says Vaidya: “The biggest challenge is to convince more people to watch world cinema.” Adds Abraham, “Our biggest challenge is to get more retailers to stock up products that aren’t box office hits.”
But all players have their arsenals ready to take on the challenge. “NDTV Lumiere’s biggest advantage is its library of contemporary world cinema.” Palador boasts of a library of 1,100 films, including masterpieces like Birth Of A Nation from 1915, “the film that established a cinematic grammar followed till date,” to My Blueberry Nights from last year.
UTV’s Aditya wishes the pace of digitisation were faster. UTV World Movies has 750 titles, a mix of contemporary and classics.
Singh says the good news is that world cinema is acquiring pace. As Sikhnis puts it: “Like most desires, the desire for quality too begets more for the same. The ball has been set rolling and it’s just a matter of time before it turns into a snowball.”
7 months ago