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"Who cares for a silver jubilee..." - Amit Khanna

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By: Amit Khanna. IndiaFM
Friday, October 27, 2006
This is going to be one bright and sparkling Diwali (and Eid) all problems notwithstanding. The economy is doing well, the stock market is on a roll and 2006 is turning out be the best year ever for the Indian film industry. There has been a string of super hits - Rang De Basanti, Phir Hera Pheri, Fanaa, Krrish, KANK, Lage Raho Munnabhai, Gangster, Golmal, Pyar Ke Side / Effects to name a few. As I write this column, news about Don and Jaan-E-Mann is also good and many big films including Dhoom 2, Umrao Jaan, Guru, Eklavya and Vivah are still to release in the coming 2 months. Each new blockbuster is raising the bar at the box-office. Not only is there a lot of media attention around the world it seems that more people are watching our movies both at home and abroad. Suddenly the mood is upbeat in Bollywood. Of course this is partly true because of the swanky multiplexes which are attracting hordes of people specially youngsters? The other reason is that there is a lot of hype about films across media. What is quite apparent that today it is the opening weekend which decides the fate of movie. Who cares for a silver jubilee in these times of instant gratification?

In this attention economy it is all about eyeballs and mind space. There is multiplicity of media options from live entertainment to online gaming, from digital download to big screen extravaganzas. Today it is perhaps more important to market your film aggressively than even making it. No wonder producers have begun promoting their films like never before. We have seen stars and producers on countless TV Channels, events and newspapers every time a major movie releases. So these days you have Shah Rukh and Salman Khan popping on your TV screens even as Farhan Akhtar and Sajid Nadiadwala extol their films' uniqueness. Karan Johar was omnipresent across media specially TV channels plugging away his film Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna as were other filmmakers at release time. Similarly, even the otherwise media shy Aamir Khan, Ajay Devgan and Hrithik Roshan went out of their way to promote their films Fanaa, Omkara and Krrish respectively.

As producers are discovering the shortened release window for theatrical exhibition leaves very little time for word-of-mouth there is a concerted effort to push audiences into the theatres in the few days. So, pre-release publicity is becoming high decibel and all pervasive. After all, it is imperative to grab eyeballs from not only other films but also competing media like TV shows, news even cricket matches. What is fanning the publicity fire is the need of various media-Newspapers and magazines, News and Music Channels, FM Radio, Mobile Phones, Websites to get their own share of eyeballs. The producer gets its stars to the media, which gets premium content, free and the film gets its audience. A nice little virtuous cycle!

We are following Hollywood in its carpet-bombing technique of film marketing and a 360 degree promotion of films is becoming popular in India too. In-film advertising and product placement is clumsily making its appearance in our films, sometimes too much in the face and cluttered. Major advertising agencies like the WPP group (Broadmind) Lowe (Lin Entertainment), Percept (P9) and Leo-Burnet (Leo Entertainment) are targeting the rapidly expanding market of entertainment cross promotion. Many large consumer product companies from colas to cars, telcos to textiles are discovering the merit of brand association with films and film stars. In a win-win situation, both the film and products are getting consumer attention. This was one of the keenly discussed at the annual Media and Marketing conference EM2 organized by the Producers Guild in Mumbai recently. Fortunately, film producers specially the big daddies like Yashraj, Adlabs, UTV, Vishesh Films, Dharma, PNC, Percept, Vinod Chopra, Ram Gopal Varma and others have also understood the importance of marketing.

On-line promotion and contests handled by agencies like Hungama did for Krrishare de rigueur in Bollywood today. Websites are an important sales promotion tool in the ever expanding and lucrative overseas market. Blogs and mobile phones are also emerging a new and important media. From simple SMS based contests to elaborate movie zones on Reliance Mobile World (big films get over 5 million paid hits) film are becoming popular with both the consumers as well as the producers. Simultaneously there is increased awareness about tapping newer revenue streams like ring tones and downloads, home video and multiple telecasts. Multiplexes and other retail chains like Pantaloons are also offering ground activation opportunities. In fact the multiplexes and the recent phenomenon of digital cinemas is also redefining the contours of the Industry. This may appear surprising when you realize that there are currently only 300 multiplex screens against 11500 single screens in India but they account for 30% of the total box-office. By next year, they will be 500. As we go forward 40% of a film's revenue will accrue from streams like TV and online rights, product placements, and digital downloads. Video-on-demand, IPTV, DTH are all emerging revenue streams. Then of course is the much talked about overseas market, which is expanding by the week.

Indeed the coming year(s) offer huge opportunities for Bollywood. A lot of money is waiting to be made. Fortunately, as more multiplexes crop more digital cinemas and us appear even niche films will find an audience. Creativity, always gives an unfair advantage to the talented even in a market driven scenario. Filmmakers must learn to keep their target audience in mind while they make their film and while they promote it. These are changing times. Those who don't change will left stranded. Again, those who judge a film's success by old benchmarks of percentile attendance and number of weeks are hopelessly also out of sync with the times. At the end of it all it is business, which means a healthy balance sheet.

So, along producing and distributing your movies across platforms get used to a promotional blitzkrieg on release. And by the way, sometimes a good story helps. Even in the opening weekend.

Happy Festivities!



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