New Delhi hopes to break into Chinese box-office

Amiti Sen Meenakshi Verma Ambwani New Delhi | Updated on November 21, 2017

Immensely popular: A still from Aamir Khan-starrer ‘3 Idiots’.

Seeing an audience connect, wants annual quota for Bollywood films to take on Hollywood

India has sought an exclusive quota in China’s growing market for cinema that Indian filmmakers have not been able to break into. New Delhi has demanded that Beijing set an annual quota for Indian films, as it is difficult to compete with Hollywood for the total 34 foreign movies that China allows every year.

“There is a huge opportunity for Indian cinema in the Chinese market, going by the popularity of the handful of movies like 3 Idiots, Lagaan and My Name is Khan that have managed to get screened there. If we are allowed to show at least a fixed minimum number of movies every year, it will be booming business for our film industry,” a Commerce Department official told Business Line.

India is the largest producer of movies in the world, but China’s box office generated revenues worth $2.7 billion in 2012, second only to the US. Foreign movies accounted for about half the revenues. Many in the industry expect China to pip the US by 2020 as, unlike the US, the Chinese market for movies is not saturated.

With many cultural similarities, Bollywood potboilers have huge appeal in Asian markets, and China is expected to be no different. However, China’s quota system has been hampering the flow of movies from India. Till last year, China allowed 20 foreign films a year, most of which were big-budget Hollywood movies. Although it has since expanded the quota by 14, it is only for 3-D or for big-screen IMAX formats, again benefiting only Hollywood.

Positive discrimination

“There is positive discrimination in favour of Hollywood movies in China. There is no such restriction in India. We have, therefore, demanded that till foreign movies are allowed free entry in China, we should be given an exclusive quota every year,” the official said.

Although both Chinese Premiere Li Kequiang and its Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng, during their recent India visit, proclaimed their love for Indian movies, especially 3 Idiots, no commitments have yet been made on India’s demand. A senior Information and Broadcasting Ministry official said discussions on the issue are expected to happen between the I&B Minister and Chinese officials soon.

The two countries are also planning film festivals showcasing Indian and Chinese movies.

Top market

Jehil Thakkar, Head, media and entertainment practice at KPMG, said the popularity of Indian films like 3 Idiots will probably make the Chinese officials more open to allowing more Indian movies. “China is among the top markets for films. But there is a very strong Hollywood lobby that one has to fight against. We may be able to release one or two movies every year because of the talks, but getting a separate quota could be difficult,” he said. He added that Indian movies are not as popular as Hollywood movies in China and except the big cities, Indian movies are not well known.

Indian movie makers are looking at new territories but analysts believe they still get a large share of their international revenues from the Indian Diaspora. On the other hand, in a bid to woo audiences in India and China, Hollywood studios are not only striking co-production deals but also roping in Indian and Chinese actors, shooting at Indian and Chinese locations as well as spending big bucks on promoting their movies in such emerging markets.



Published on May 28, 2013

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