How 'Avengers: Infinity War' Powered a Record Year for Hollywood in India

AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR - Thanos - Publicity-H 2018
Courtesy of Marvel Studios

In a country dominated by local films, the Marvel superhero blockbuster became Hollywood's biggest hit of all time, while Bollywood box office revenue also hit a new high in 2018.

Hollywood's 2018 box office share expanded in India, a market traditionally dominated by local films, thanks to the record-breaking performance in the country of Avengers: Infinity War.

Hollywood had a "blockbuster" year in 2018 with total revenue reaching an all-time high of $132 million (9.2 billion rupees), up from $115 million (8.01 billion rupees) in 2017, according to an annual industry report by consultancy Ernst and Young India, released Tuesday. That boosted Hollywood films' share from about 8 percent in 2017 to 10 percent.

India's total theatrical revenue also reached a milestone, crossing the 100 billion rupees, or $1.4 billion, mark for the first time, compared with $1.38 billion (96.3 billion rupees) in 2017. Total film industry revenue grew by 12.2 percent to reach $2.5 billion (174.5 billion rupees).

The report, prepared in association with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry and titled "A Billion Screens of Opportunity," was released at the 20th edition of the three-day FICCI-FRAMES conference in Mumbai.

Without listing the titles, the report said that the total revenue for the top 10 Hollywood films released in India in 2018 reached $107 million (7.5 billion rupees), compared with $68.9 million (4.8 billion rupees) in 2017.

While 98 Hollywood films were released in 2018 compared with 105 in 2017, the surge in revenue was largely due to Avengers: Infinity War, which reached box office revenue of $31.6 million (2.22 billion rupees) in the country and became the highest-grossing Hollywood film of all time in India. The Marvel superhero blockbuster ended up contributing a fourth of Hollywood's total revenue in India in 2018.

By contrast, the biggest Hollywood hits of 2016 and 2017, The Jungle Book and Fast and Furious 8, made $25.8 million (1.88 billion rupees) and $12.3 million (860 million rupees), respectively.

While Hollywood still commands a minority share of the Indian box office, this is a significant increase from about 3 percent to 4 percent a decade ago. The wider acceptance of Hollywood films over the years, especially tentpoles, such as the Avengers franchise, has been due to films also getting dubbed in local languages, including Hindi, Tamil and Telugu, in a bid to reach a wider audience.

The report said that "more and more Hollywood content is being released in India, and the interest in the segment has also increased over the years." It pointed out that Hollywood films are now released on the same day and date in India as the rest of the world, if not before, and that the "success of recent years has established India as a very lucrative market for global studios."

Domestic films still rule the market as India continues to be the largest film industry in the world in terms of local releases. In 2018, a total of 1,776 films in multiple languages were released compared with 1,807 in 2017. Hindi-language Bollywood saw 238 releases in 2018, compared with 288 in 2017. Despite a decline in the number of releases, Bollywood still had a record year with films crossing the billion-rupee mark almost every month. Bollywood recorded its highest theatrical revenue ever, reaching $506 million (35.2 billion rupees) in 2018.

Another major milestone for Indian films was the success at the Chinese box office, which saw 10 titles released in 2018 bringing in total revenue of $272.3 million. This makes China the largest overseas market for Indian films. China has grown substantially considering only two Indian films were released there in 2016 and one in 2017.

Despite strong box office revenue at home, India's total screen count continues to remain low. While the number of screens in India increased from 9,530 in 2017 to 9,601 in 2018, China is far ahead with 55,623 screens, while the U.S. has 40,837 screens.

As for other industry sectors, the report highlighted that India's digital market is on a roll. In 2018, a total of 325 million people viewed videos online, which meant a 25 percent increase from 2017. The report estimated that India's online population will grow from 446 million in 2017 to 840 million in 2022.

The television industry continues to dominate the overall entertainment landscape and is also on the rise, reaching $10.6 billion (740 billion rupees) in revenue in 2018, up 12 percent from $9.5 billion (660 billion rupees) in 2017.