Home entertainment boom takes world cinema to Indian homes

New Delhi, Aug 16 (IANS) Ingmar Bergman, Akira Kurosawa, Francois Truffaut, Federico Fellini - they were exclusive names in the domains of discerning and cerebral moviegoers across India until a few years ago. Not any more.

Earlier, the iconic movies made by them were either shown in film festivals organised by small groups or sold in video formats at exorbitant prices in high-end home entertainment stores. The process of acquiring them online was risky.

But now, thanks to the booming home entertainment industry in India, the scene has changed dramatically. The video prints are reaching the film buffs legally much cheaper and much faster - sometimes in barely three days.

The home entertainment sector in India comprises the fast-moving home video or the DVD and VCD segments.

"Earlier, one had to go online to download classics illegally or had to purchase the videos through Aamzon.com or get a pirated version from the neighbourhood CD or the DVD shop," Amit Kapoor, head of sales and marketing of Mumbai-based Palador Pictures, one of the country's largest content production, programming and publishing companies, told IANS.

The other alternative was to buy the classics during trips abroad or receive them as gifts from non-resident Indian relatives and friends visiting India.

Mail ordering video cassettes was difficult because it would take months and the cost would double.

According to Kapoor, competitive pricing, easy availability of video prints and new video formatting technology designed to cut cost are responsible for the boom in the home entertainment segment.

The fact that prices of DVD players have declined has also helped usher in exponential growth in the home entertainment sector over the last two to three years. Earlier, a branded DVD player cost Rs.6,000. Now you can get one for Rs.1,999.

A report by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) said revenue models in the film entertainment industry have changed with the emergence of new streams that go beyond the box office.

Different platforms like home video, merchandise, re-make rights and several branded entertainment opportunities have pushed up the growth of the entertainment industry, which now stands poised at Rs.96 million. It is expected to reach Rs.176 billion by 2012, the FICCI projections for 2008 said.

According to the report, the entry of the world's second largest optical storage manufacturer Moser Baer in the home entertainment segment is changing the model of home entertainment from rentals to sell-throughs (direct sale).

Moser Baer, the first pan Indian company to offer home videos in every popular Indian language, has triggered a stiff price race in the DVD and VCD segments by pricing its DVDs of Hindi movies at Rs.34 and VCDs at Rs.28.

Kapoor, whose firm Palador has tied up with Moser Baer, felt selling celluloid masters to the mass Indian audience had become easy ever since Moser Baer moved to the premium category of distribution, pricing the products at Rs.399 early this year.

"This is the first time classics are being sold at such prices. The first run of 40 classic DVDs that we jointly launched in the market in May has been sold. We plan to launch 50 premium titles every year," Kapoor said.

Palador Films is currently promoting its "Collector's Items" - DVD box sets of movies by master filmmakers like Bergman, Akira Kurosawa and Francoise Truffaut - through a five-day retrospective of Ingmar Bergman's films, "Remembering Bergman: A Retrospective".

The retrospective held in the capital Aug 8-14 will now travel to Kolkata, Chennai and Bangalore.

Palador introduced its new collector's box set of Bergman videos comprising five movies, "The Silence", "Summer With Monika", "Music in Darkness", "Winter Light" and "Through A Glass Darkly" at the festival. The box set is priced at Rs.2,000.

"We have a collection of 32 Bergman movies. Besides the five, two movies, "Wild Strawberries" and "Summer Interludes" are available in stores as standalone cassettes. It is our tribute to the filmmaker who passed away last year," Kapoor said.

The next set of five Bergman classics from Palador will be ready in September. The Palador Library, available online, brings together over 100 great masters with at least 1,000 iconic titles - which is one of the biggest spreads of classic world cinema.

Kapoor said the company also has two box sets of movies by French director Francois Truffaut and Japanese director Akira Kurosawa priced at $47.99 each. Besides, it also offers a spread of 10 classics under the title "Best of World Cinema" priced at $95.49.

Price point apart, Palador DVDs also have several attractive add-ons to give buyers value for money. "For instance, the DVDs of Bergman movies have three special features - the main movie menu, an intermezzo which features an interview with the filmmaker and a short film section which has a limited-time movie by an illustrious Film & Television Institute of India (FTII) graduate.

"Our first lot of box sets contains movies by Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Kundan Shah and Jaya Bachchan. The new lot will feature upcoming directors," Kapoor explained.

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