2007 fades out on buoyant note for entertainment

By Arpana

New Delhi, Dec 30 (IANS) Detours from convention, digitisation and a ringing till! Bollywood never had it so good.

The year 2007 rained largesse on the world's second largest movie industry with hits like "Chak De! India", "Bheja Fry" and "Taare Zameen Par" - three medium-budget movies with rather unconventional plots. Bollywood raked in a profit of Rs.4 billion. And there's quite a lot that's waiting to happen in 2008.

"In my opinion, 2007 will be remembered for a Hollywood Studio's (Sony Pictures) first Indian venture 'Saawariya'. The film grossed over $19 million, which was more than recovering the cost of production," Vikramjit Roy, head of publicity, Sony Pictures Releasing India, told IANS.

Vikas Mohan, editor of Mumbai-based trade magazine Supercinema, said Bollywood's profits this year were not more than Rs.4.5 billion.

"Although corporate houses claim that investment in Hindi films was over Rs.6 billion, actual investment was about Rs.4.5 billion and we have doubled the money we invested in films," said Mohan.

The Rs.8,400-crore Indian film industry is expected to touch the Rs.17,500 crore mark by 2011, said a FICCI report on the industry, prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Corporatisation and digitisation are going to be the important factors in taking the industry to a greater height, the report added.

Although regional cinema industry barring Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam films is not growing at the same rate, digitisation will open new avenues for them as well.

India's economic boom has expanded the consumption list of the middle class, which is expected to push up industry profits. India's one billion people spend close to Rs.80 billion ($2 billion) on movie tickets each year, a figure expected to grow by 30 percent over the next five years, said a new report, Cinemagoing India, prepared by Britain-based analyst Dodona Research.

Another major change that has taken place is that India has emerged as a cinema market with huge potential. Shekhar Kapur, the Hollywood-based Indian director, was quoted as saying that Asia was no longer a hub for ideas but a huge market for many international releases.

"For many international releases today, where 80 percent of the revenue was earlier coming from the US box office, today it is only a third. Two-thirds are pouring in from outside US markets. And in future, this would do down to just 10 percent.

"European economy today is middle-aged. India and China are bringing in the young audience. The balance of 90 percent will come from the young markets and people understand that," Kapur said.

Another important change that the director of "Elizabeth - The Virgin Queen" pointed out is the multiple revenue streams and changing consumption pattern.

"Not just a shift in consumption, but there has been a shift in the pattern of media consumption as well. From being back office boys or doing 'second hand' work, Mumbai and Singapore are the next hubs. We have the markets here, a large talent pool and a lot going for us - it has to happen that way," Kapur said.

"Today, it is obsolete to not include changes in the digital space. Something like YouTube can really wake you up. What did Lilly Allen do? She put her song on MySpace, it became the number one there and then Sony BMG came to her. She didn't go to them!

"The spread of technology is so wide today that a maker will soon beg: 'please protect my copyright for a day'. After that, he knows, everyone would have access to it," Kapur added.

Rajat Barjatya, younger brother of director Sooraj Barjatya, has taken the first step in this direction by releasing his home production "Vivah" simultaneously on Internet and theatres.

He has also developed special content for the new media and is all set to launch India's first soap for mobile phone users in January.

Increasing market penetration, technological advancements, new platforms for content delivery and a surge in foreign and private equity fund investments will not only fuel Hindi film industry's growth but trigger phenomenal growth in the entertainment sector.

Digitisation is seen as a major relief as it offers cost benefits. It has reduced the print duplication cost. Earlier, copying a movie print cost Rs.60,000. Thanks to digitisation, now the same job costs just Rs.5,000, says an Assocham report on digitisation of media.

Digital delivery of films will enable maximization of reach on the first day of theatrical release, thereby significantly reducing the release window for each platform. This will enable filmmakers to capture revenues within a shorter span of time, the report added.

As digital cinema accumulates a sizeable mass, film distribution costs will drop further with the advent of central transmission centres akin to television broadcasting. This would help worldwide release of a movie on day one, cut short the theatrical window.

With companies like UFO Moviez and Pyramid Saimira taking the lead with a special focus on Tier II and Tier III cities, India is expected to have 2,000 digital screens in the next three year.

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