‘With increasing number of Bollywood films releasing, it is difficult to find a good release window for Hollywood movies’ – Paramount Films of India GM Sarabjit Singh

Paramount Films of India GM Sarabjit Singh

Paramount Films of India GM Sarabjit Singh
Paramount Films of India GM Sarabjit Singh
Paramount Films of India GM Sarabjit Singh
Paramount Films of India GM Sarabjit Singh
Paramount Films of India GM Sarabjit Singh
Paramount Films of India GM Sarabjit Singh
Paramount Films of India GM Sarabjit Singh
Paramount Films of India GM Sarabjit Singh

Shining bright in 2008 with films like Kung Fu Panda, The Incredible Hulk and Indiana Jones, Paramount Films of India still has five movies lined up for release this year.
With a target of grossing Rs 100 crores this year, the company has already touched the Rs 85 crores mark as of August. Movies like Madagascar 2 and Hellboy 2 are still to release in India.

In this interview with Businessofcinema.com, Paramount Films of India general manager Sarabjit Singh holds forth on Paramount and Universal’s growth in the Indian market over the years, draws attention to challenges faced from Bollywood movies and more.


Over the years how has India as a market been for Paramount and Universal’s movies?
The market has been growing slowly and steadily and we can foresee more growth in the coming years. Majority of benefit still goes to the local films released, and obviously so. Fortunately, now smaller films are getting the best showcase in theatres, unlike before. But India stills needs a lot of infrastructure in exhibition of films.

According to you what are the factors that have contributed to the growth for Hollywood movies market in India?
The growth started long back when Jurassic Park released and we were first granted permission to dub films. Simultaneously the market for Hollywood films also grew in cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai and Pune.

Secondly, earlier there was a restriction on the number of films and kind of films imported, which was channelized through NFDC – one of the distributors then. The third factor was the coming in of multiplexes, which allowed wider release of films.
Earlier movies were released in Bombay with just one print and now that has risen to 14 – 15 prints. So, largely the Hollywood movie market has grown due to multiplexes and this stands true even for Indian films. But unfortunately multiplexes in India are built with three – four screens, which are very insufficient. So multiplexes need to have more number of screens depending on the place so that more movies can be accommodated and exhibited properly.

What is the share of Hollywood movies in India for the year of 2007 & 2008?
The combined share of major studios in India would be six – seven per cent of the total number of movies released in India. In 2007, a total of 75 Hollywood films released in India that grossed Rs 310 crores at box office. The numbers for 2008 are not known yet.

 Year No. of Hollywood Movies Released in India
 Gross Collections
 2005  55  Rs 185 crores
 2006  74  Rs 250 crores
 2007  75  Rs 310 crores

What is Paramount’s current market share in terms of revenues in the Hollywood movies’ pie in India?
If it is a worthy line up of films, then the share would be 30 – 35 per cent. If it is a bad year, then it would be only 15- 20 percent.

 Paramount & Universal’s market share in India
 2006  18%
 2007  11%
 2008  34% (till August)

This year in particular saw a nice line up of movies from Paramount including Kung Fu Panda, The Incredible Hulk, Indiana Jones etc. What is Paramount’s target for this year and how far has it been achieved?
This year’s target is a gross of Rs 100 crores and we grossed Rs 85 crores as of August. Hence our achievements are close to the target and we still have a line-up of five films including Hellboy 2 and Madagascar 2.

Why was the decision taken to sell rights of The Mummy 3? Was it to achieve targets?
We looked at the situation where so many big films were being released and we felt the offer made to us was good, so we accepted it. Selling the movie helped to achieve the targets, but that was not the primary motive. Overall targets would not be the primary objective just because of Mummy 3. We wanted to give the movie the best promotion, marketing and widest release and we could do that with the help of Percept.

With more and more Hindi films being made and released; does this pose as a difficulty for Hollywood movies to zero-in on good release windows?
Absolutely! With more and more Bollywood films being released, we find it difficult to have a good release window for Hollywood movies. We have delayed the release of Hellboy 2 to duck competition and look for a potential release date. So, we have already lost out to piracy and yet not managed to have a good release window due to plethora of Bollywood movies releasing post October.

Then how will the Hollywood movie market grow in such a scenario?
India is still lacking in exhibition infrastructure. As time progresses and more cinemas come up, I see the scenario of releases getting eased out a little. I see the Hollywood movie market growing by 10 – 15 per cent annually.
On what basis are day and date release and differed releases decided for English films?
It is based on the potential of the movie. A day and date release becomes an expensive affair because additional print costs have to borne. If a film can bear these costs, then we go ahead with day and date release. Besides, this is also advisable in order to beat piracy.

With most Hollywood studios setting shop in India to produce local content, is there anything brewing in Paramount or Universal?
Viacom (parent company of Paramount) has aligned with TV18 and any sort of movie production will happen under that only. We are just the distribution office for Paramount and Universal.

Now that Viacom has entered Indian markets will one see any sort of alliances with this Paramount office?

What marketing strategies does Paramount follow for its movies in India? There is a perception that it is conservative and lacks aggression.
We are not conservative, we are realistic. We try and analyze marketing strategies after watching any film and estimating the business it will bring in. So typically 30 per cent of the films potential business is spent on its marketing, which ranges from Rs 20 lakhs to Rs 1.75 crores, depending upon small films to blockbusters and depending on non-dubbed and dubbed films.

Why doesn’t Paramount have distribution offices in India and chooses to operate through alliances with local distributors?
Primarily it is our business strategy. As mentioned earlier, the business is growing slowly, so looking at the capital expenditure and overhead costs of establishing and manning an office, I feel it is still not in the interest of our business to incur such expenditure. Moreover, there is still some time till before we can be confident of a larger volume of business and thereby support overheads.

How do Paramount’s big bosses look at Indian market vis-à-vis other markets?
They are eying the Indian market, not just from the Hollywood release perspective but also the volume of business in this market. It is a growing market and obviously all eyes where the growth is.

Annually, how much percent of total movie library is imported to India and on what basis are these movies selected? By how much percent has the import increased in last few years?
This year we have imported approximately 17 movies (including Paramount and Universal), which is approximately 60 per cent of total movies. The number of movies being imported has gone up gradually over the last five years. There is no point in mindlessly importing a lot of films, because then they wouldn’t be able to meet the bottom line. Additionally, advertising and print costs have gone up radically. So, the movies are selected on the basis of audience’s taste in India.

Paramount & Universal movies imported to India
Gross Collections in India
 2006  13  Rs 45 crores
 2007  16  Rs 36 crores
 2008  12 (upto September)  Rs 85 crores (till August)

Also, as a distributor of Hollywood animation movies, what is your reaction to the Indian animation market?
Hollywood animation movies are still confined to multiplexes and same is the case with Indian animation movies. Indian animation needs to create certain fictional characters, a good storyline to befit that and good technology to depict it. The Indian animation market has been primarily mythological in nature with a hope to break into smaller towns, but sadly they are restricted to multiplexes. And ironically young and educated parents today want to expose their kids to best quality movies. So, Hollywood animation movies are catching up.

Even if we see the business done by the Shrek franchise movies, volumes, share and openings have gone up. Shrek 3, Happy Feet and Kung Fu Panda are the highest grossing animation movies.

Movie  Year of Release
Gross Collections in India
 Shrek  2001  Rs 45 lakhs
 Shrek 2  2004  Rs 1.55 crores
 Shrek 3  2007  Rs 4.25 crores
 Kung Ku Panda  2008  Rs 4.40 crores

After South Indian languages and also a brush with Bhojpuri, where do you see a big potential and growth in dubbed movie market for Hollywood films?
We generally dub movies with ferocious characters, good action or adventure films. There are a few states in which local organizations do not allow for movies to be dubbed in local languages, like Bengal. Dubbing movies in Bengali can be a big market in Bengal and also Bangladesh, which apparently is keen on showing dubbed movies.