Co-production in the Film Industry between Hollywood and Bollywood

Co-production in the Film Industry between Hollywood and Bollywood

Pattie Crider

York College of Pennsylvania

Abstract

The film industry worldwide has been recognized as a business that requires a cohesive effort of many to produce a single product. This paper will examine the production process in Hollywood, the film “capital” of the United States to that of Bollywood, the film industry of India. The production process of filming and advertising between the two differs greatly. Hollywood has realized the effectiveness of the Bollywood industry and has taken steps to become involved in the production of Indian films seeking to be part of this multi-million dollar industry. This essay will discuss the involvement of film companies from the United States in the attempt to reap the benefits of films produced in the Bollywood industry. I predict there will be a difficult learning curve for the American film companies to realize what makes Bollywood productions successful.

Keywords: Hollywood, Bollywood, film industry

The Co-production of the Film Industry between Hollywood and Bollywood

            Hollywood and Bollywood are the largest film industries in the world respectively. Each country had their own method of producing and promoting the films that best serves them financially. The differences between the two are numerous. To better understand how the film industry functions in each country, I will briefly examine each prior to discussing the joint efforts of the two film leaders. This examination will help to understand the great financial differences and risks involved for the film company.

Hollywood Productions

            The first feature movie was produced in Hollywood, California in 1911, and the name “Hollywood” became so widely associated with the business that it became the accepted name for the entire industry. Hollywood functions as an industry that is backed by individuals willing to risk large amounts of money with only a possibility of gaining a profit. A movie, even one that is an instant hit may take a decade or more to recoup the initial investment.  The time required to see a profit may be the reason individuals are not eager to invest. “If I’m sitting on $2 billion, will I invest in a Hollywood studio?” asks Anita Elberse, a Harvard Business School professor who studies the entertainment industry (Davidson, 2012). Because of the great risks involved, the movie productions in the United States are generally left to the established film giants, those being Sony, Disney, Warner Brothers, and 20th Century Fox. (Rasul & Proffitt, 2012) These mentioned film companies’ front millions of dollars to cover the expenses of production from the purchase of a script to the casting agents, and securing a promising actor. “The nature of the film industry, particularly in the West, is intrinsically different from other media in that it relies on the viewer to generate revenue rather than advertisers or funding by the government” (Rasul & Proffitt, 2012). In other words, if the movie is released at the cost of millions and it flops in the theater, there is little that can be done to recoup the investment. To help defray the cost of production, the companies rely on profits from DVD sales, product placement agreements, and film releases abroad.

Bollywood Productions

            Cinema in India is a two billion dollar a year industry (Das, 2009). The production of movies in India differs from Hollywood in two different ways. First, the actors are the major draw in Indian cinema and secondly, the production and distribution of these films are controlled by the relatives and close friends of the major Bollywood stars (Rasul & Proffitt, 2012). This tight-knit group of friends and relatives keep the cost of production to a minimum in order to maximize the films profit. Also to increase the profit line, Bollywood accepts brand placement deals from multinational advertisers (Nelson & Devanthan, 2006). The deal struck between a consumer product company and an Indian production house will allow for a substantial increase to the filming budget. In some instances, Western companies will pay for a consumer product to be placed in multiple scenes or added to the background to promote these products, directly or subconsciously, in Indian film. For example, in 2001, Coca-Cola paid $670,000 (approximately 20% of the film’s production costs) to have the stars drink Coca-Cola in the movie and have Coca-Cola signage added to the scenery during filming (Nelson & Devanthan, 2006). This product placement increases Indian awareness of Western products and allows globalization to enter into the daily lives of movie viewers. Unlike movie viewing in the West, people visit cinemas in India nearly daily. There are 13,000 cinemas across India and nearly 11,000,000 people of India’s 1 billion citizens watch a movie daily. This places Bollywood cinema above Hollywood in box office sales (Singh, 2013). The now dominate Indian cinema has drawn the attention of Hollywood as the West has realized the potential opportunity to profit from producing films in India. Entertainment analyst Smita Jha stated, “For Hollywood studios, expanding globally no longer means only pushing their products in these markets” (Rasul & Proffitt 2012). The West now has interest in more than just placing products and encouraging Western integration through globalization; Hollywood wants a slice of Bollywood.

Aamir-khan

Hollywood and Bollywood Unite

            The first movie production by Hollywood in India was in November 2007 with the Sony Pictures production of “Saawariya” (Beloved) based on Russian author Dostoyevsky’s short story, White Nights, with an operating cost of $7 million. The same day “Om Shanti Om” (Om Peace Om) was released by Shah Rukh Khan, an Indian cinema superstar and movie producer. Khan and many of his star-studded friends were featured in this movie. The Sony Pictures production was crushed by the independent Indian production. “Saawariya” generated a mere $9 million while Khan’s production generated an astounding $21 million in box office sales (Chopra, 2009). While this may have been somewhat embarrassing to Sony, the loss did not deter Hollywood from continuing to see production opportunities. The size of Hollywood production companies and their ability to adjust the profit or loss per film in order to receive continued support from investors, assures no long-term economic affect on the business. This initial failure by Sony was absorbed and a second Hollywood production company, Disney, debuted as a co-producer of an animated film titled Roadside Romeo (Rasul & Proffitt 2012).

roadside_romeo_28_10x7

            Disney took a safer approach in co-producing with the established Bollywood company, Yash Raj Films. The cost of the animated movie Roadside Romeo was approximately 3.5 million and the gross ticket sales amounted to the same (Chopra, 2009). This breaking even in production costs is what most Hollywood companies are happy to achieve. Hollywood relies on movie related consumer products, DVD sales, soundtracks, and international cinema releases to increase their profits. Bollywood, declared an industry by the Indian government in 1998, is happy to co-produce with Hollywood. When Bollywood was declared an industry, the Indian government reduced the cost of entertainment taxes to facilitate foreign investment and provide loans to the production companies (Rasul & Proffitt 2012). This change by the government opened the doors for Hollywood to co-produce with little taxation. The opportunity for investment with little long term risk was welcomed by Hollywood, still eager to profit from the box office sales in India. A typical Bollywood film “cost less than $20 million to produce, compared to Hollywood movies costing upwards of $100 million or more” (Das, 2009). Since the initial attempt by Sony Pictures to produce a movie in India it has been realized that Indian cinemas have little interest in Hollywood productions and a different approach needed to be examined.

The learning curve for Hollywood has been a difficult one. The traditional Indian movie is based on the movie star and is nearly always a musical. The soundtrack to the movie is released prior to the movie to increase public interest. Movie goers expect at least a 3 hour film that includes an intermission. They also expect to be entertained with Western influence. Bollywood movies are a combination of musical numbers with action and love scenes (Melwani, 2013). Think of a movie that blends Chicago: The Musical, DieHard, and James Bond. This sounds like a maddening mess, but it is exactly what the viewer’s want as long as their favorite Bollywood star is the main character. In extreme contrast to Hollywood films, Bollywood has no intimate love scenes, nor is there any bloodshed in action sequences. The actors are held to high standards by the viewing audience and the people of India look up to the stars as role models, where they may be voted in as government officials or even have temples constructed in their honor (Nelson & Devanathan 2006). A demand for Bollywood movies to be filmed in the United States, especially in New York City, is the current trend. The films rely on the same format of music and dance, bright costumes and sets and recognized stars, but the change is the cost of filming. Filming in the West is much more costly to the Bollywood industry, but something Hollywood is accustomed to.

new-york-hindi-movie-stills28

Current Trend in Filming

            Hollywood has come to realize there is little demand for filming and producing movies in India.  Rather, the demand is for Bollywood to film in the larger U.S. cities and release the productions in India and the United States, as well as other foreign markets. “There are so many Bollywood films being shot in the U.S. that Shah organizes just about everything for them from immigration to cargo, Hollywood costume designers, digital work and stunt teams.” Shah estimates he has brought more than 95,000 jobs to America with his film productions (Melwani, 2013). This twist to the filming industry between Bollywood and Hollywood seems to be moving in a promising direction. American viewers have discovered the Bollywood films with their unique blend of Hindi and English language, referred to as “Hinglish” and over-the-top action scenes. I viewed several trailers for Bollywood movies and found them easy to follow. English is used visually, flashed across the screen, and blended into the script of the actors. The trailers highlight a dramatically different type of movie that American’s have grown to love, but one that I personally would be interested in viewing. Hollywood may have had to learn the hard way, but welcoming Bollywood to America has stimulated our economy and created new business ties in the film industry and opened the doors to a whole new viewing audience.

Curious to see a Bollywood movie trailer? Check this one out.

References

Chopra, A. (2009, March 20). Stumbling toward Bollywood. The New York Times. Retrieved from  http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/22/movies/22chop.html

Das, J. (2009, June 21). Indian films in New York create Bollywood-on-Hudson. Reuters. Retrieved from http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE55L00420090622

Davidson, A. (2012, June 26). How does the film industry make money? The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/01/magazine

Melwani, L. (2013, January 24) Made in America: Bollywood comes to the US. Lassi With Lavina.  http://www.lassiwithlavina.com/thebuzz/made-in-america-bollywood-comes-to-the-us/html

Nelson, M. & Devanathan, N. (2006 May-June) Brand placements Bollywood Style. The Journal   of Consumer Behaviour, Vol. 5, 211-221.

Ninian, A. (2003). Bollywood. EBSCO Publishing. 235-240.

Rasul, A. & Proffitt, J. (2012). An Irresistible Market: A Critical Analysis of Hollywood-Bollywood Coproductions. Communication, Culture & Critique, Vol. 5, 563-579.

Singh, P. (2013). An Analytical Study On Covert Advertising: Product Placement In Indian Cinema. International Journal of Research and Development, Vol. 2 Issue 1, 77-84

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