Bollywood loses $44 mil in first half of year

Tentpole films fail to become blockbusters

NEW DELHI -- Bollywood has had a rough half-year,  with industry estimates pegging losses at about 2 billion rupees ($44 million) given a series of major failures with few hits making up for the deficit.

Among the approximately 70 films released in the first six months, the two much-hyped and big-budget titles of the year, “Kites” and “Raavan," performed below expectations, with analysts estimating that between them, both films lost about 1 billion rupees.

However, there was some cheer with the runaway success of UTV Motion Pictures' political drama “Raajneeti,” which grossed over 1 billion rupees in its first 10 days while confirming the boxoffice power of its lead actor Ranbir Kapoor.

But with about 125 releases lined up for the next six months, observers are clueless whether the losses can be made up.

“The film business is very volatile and heavily based on the sheer quality of content which is why it is difficult to forecast what will happen ahead,” said PricewaterhouseCoopers India entertainment analyst Smita Jha in an interview.

A recent PwC India report for the Motion Picture Association's India office estimated Indian domestic boxoffice collections in 2008-9 at $1.8 billion which are projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 10% by 2013 to reach $2.8 billion.

In addition to poor content, it has been a challenge for the industry to attract audiences away from major distractions like cricket's Indian Premier League in April, while in October, New Delhi will host the Commonwealth Games, which could also affect cinema attendances.

Among the handful of films that are said to have recovered their investments are Fox Star Studios' “My Name Is Khan,” starring superstar Shah Rukh Khan which, according to FSS, grossed about $40 million worldwide.

While Hollywood and foreign titles command less than 10 percent of the Indian market, Sony Pictures' “The Karate Kid” was considered to be a good performer for a foreign title with its opening weekend India take of about $ 1 million.

Coupled with the after-effects of 2009's global slowdown, the industry has had a retake on production and acquisition costs. “While it seems that inflated star salaries of years past have sobered down, acquisition costs still depend on the potential box office prowess of a film, especially if it has major stars but there could be a correction in this area as well," Jha explained.

The ongoing summer holiday season will now see upcoming releases like romantic musical “I Hate Luv Storys” produced by Karan Johar, one of filmdom's most successful filmmakers, and starring upcoming actress Sonam Kapoor and actor Imran Khan. With the winter festive season considered a lucrative window, major titles include top star Akshay Kumar's two releases “Patiala House” and “Tees Maar Khan."
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