Bollywood and movie merchandising - still a long way to go

By Jivraj Burman

Mumbai, Oct 6 (IANS) Inspired by Hollywood, the Hindi film industry is beginning to go into film merchandising - introducing dolls, masks, key chains, school bags and T-shirts - and hopes to one day reap millions like in the West.

In the US, manufacturers and retailers collectively earn $16 billion annually from Hollywood movie merchandise. According to a Hollywood trade report, the studios also earn close to what their movies fetch from the box office and home entertainment market from their film's merchandise.

The success stories are far too many in Hollywood. Director George Lucas earned about $9 billion from merchandising and sequel rights of "Star Wars". Producers of the 'Harry Potter' series have so far collected $11.8 billion from different contracts. Merchandise from the "E.T." fetched filmmaker Steven Spielberg over $1 billion.

Though Bollywood has started to realise the potential of movie merchandising now, the revenues it has been able to earn from it are paltry.

"The Indian market is yet to catch up with movie merchandising. But there is great potential for the movie merchandise business to grow," Saurabh Varma, chief marketing officer of Reliance BIG Pictures, told IANS.

Right now all eyes are on "Drona" merchandise brought out by Zapak. These include a combination of games and toys, comprising two sword packs - Drona and Ritz - Magic Busters, Mind Masters, Mystery Shockers and Bully Zapper pack.

A series of comics are also being published based on the key characters of "Drona", which stars Abhishek Bachchan and Priyanka Chopra. The first in the series - "The Adventures of Drona" - has already hit the stands. The series are being marketed by Euro Kids.

"If you look at a Hollywood movie, the revenues are split evenly between theatre (ticket) sales, home entertainment and merchandise. In India, cinema merchandise at the moment generates nothing. That is going to change with malls and multiplexes and a middle class of hundreds of millions," said Andrew Heffernan of Eros International, the producers of "Drona".

In the merchandising sector, Bollywood has had very few successful deals so far. One of them was producer-director Rakesh Roshan's deal with Pantaloons for his 2006 movie "Krrish" - it proved to be fruitful for the maker as well as the retail chain.

"The range of 'Krrish' merchandise, consisting of dolls, masks, key chains, colouring books, watches, rainwear, school bags and T-shirts evoked good response from children, more so because the movie was a success," said Sanjeev Agrawal, president (marketing) of Pantaloons.

Another example is Farah Khan's tie-up with Shoppers' Stop. The clothing line made most of the mutual benefits by entering into a marketing agreement for the apparel right of her film "Om Shanti Om".

But the sale of licensed products of a movie, as Aggarwal said, is directly linked to its box-office performance. He cited Harry Baweja's "Love Story 2050" as a good example.

Though Cartoon Network Enterprise had brought out a range of retail products of the movie, the sale dropped after its lacklustre box-office performance across the country.

The same happened with "Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal". Reebok had tied up with UTV Motion Pictures to release merchandise based on the film, but the demand dipped when the Arshad Warsi-John Abraham starrer slumped at the box office.

But Varma of Reliance BIG Pictures doesn't agree and said: "Sometimes, a movie may be a failure, but some of its components stay in mind and that helps the sale of its merchandise. Like spy gadgets, hovercrafts, interactive robots and the boo doll, which were key features of 'Love Story 2050', sold well even though the movie might not have been a great success."

Rajjat A. Barjatya, managing director of Rajshri Media, added: "It is only lately that the marketing of movie merchandise has been done in an organised way with the entry of pan-Indian retail chains. But the problem of piracy still remains."

He said that Rajshri Films had brought out a limited range merchandise of their superhit movie "Hum Aapke Hain Kaun", but pirated copies arrived in the market soon, affecting the sale of the original products.

"The problem, of course, still remains," he rued.

Despite the not so encouraging results, merchandising in India is poised to grow. Recently, entertainment, media and communications company Percept announced a 50-50 joint venture with the Future Group. Called Bollywood Retail, the joint venture will invest Rs.500 million initially to sell Bollywood merchandise.

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