Gulf region emerging as top overseas market for Bollywood films

Saudi Arabia's decision last year to allow cinemas to open in the kingdom has added the importance of the Gulf market for Indian films
Gulf region emerging as top overseas market for Bollywood films
Sonakshi Sinha with Ajay Devgn, stars of the recent Bollywood film Total Dhamaal.
By James Mathew
Sun 24 Mar 2019 11:57 AM

UAE and the larger GCC markets are increasingly becoming the focus markets for Indian film producers, especially producers in Bollywood and Mollywood (Malayalam), with some of the latest hit films such as Gully Boy and Uri – The Surgical Strike raking in multi-million dollar box office collections from the region.

Saudi Arabia’s decision last year to allow cinemas to open in the kingdom has added the importance of the Gulf market for Indian films, with many of the leading producers in Bollywood planning to hold major promotional activities, including roadshows involving the industry's leading actors.

“Though the Gulf region has always been a good market for Indian films, especially the Hindi and some of the south Indian films like Malayalam films, of late the GCC market has emerged as the top earner among the overseas market revenues for our producers and distributors,” Komal Nahta, a leading Bollywood trade analyst and the publisher of ‘Film Information’, told Arabian Business.

“With the increase in the number of multiplexes and the rising ticket prices in the GCC region, the importance of this market has gone up significantly of late,” Nahta added.

According to film industry sources, GCC market now accounts for 20 to 35 percent of the total overseas box office collections of Hindi movies.

“While the GCC market is home to a large multi-ethnic population which loves films and which has a special liking for Indian movies, especially Bollywood movies, the ultimate success of a film will depend on its content,” Taran Adarsh , a noted Indian film critic, film show host on TVs and trade analyst, told Arabian Business.

Market bellwether

This is the reason producers of most of the big budget Bollywood films first release their movies in the Gulf market on a Thursday to gauge the response of the audience in order to assess the box office prospects of the film in the Indian and other markets.

“Filmmakers can gauge multicultural reactions here (GCC region) as an indicator of how a film a film will do elsewhere,” Adarsh said.

These films are released next day in India and other overseas markets.

“If a film evokes good response from the audience in the UAE and GCC markets, its producer and crew start the celebrations in Mumbai on Thursday evening itself,” Nahta said.

The Indian expatriate population in the GCC countries is close to six million, with a huge chunk of them from Kerala.

In addition, some of the Bollywood icons such as Sharukh Khan and Salman Khan are as enormously popular in some of the Arab countries as they are in India.

Gulli Boy, Badla, Uri – The Surgical Strike and Total Damaal are among some of the recent Bollywood films which raked in big time box office collections from the GCC market.

‘Kumbalangi Nights’ (Nights in Kumbalangi)  and ‘Oru Adaar Love’ (A fantastic love) are among the Malayalam movies which earned top dollars in box offices in UAE.

According to the UAE Box Office Index by Box Office Mojo, an online box office reporting services, recent Bollywood release Gulli Boy earned $3.38 million, while Uri – The Surgical Strike earned $1.3 million and Total Damaal earned $1.2 million in box office collection in 3-7 weeks of showing.

‘Kumbalangi Nights’ earned $1.13 million, while ‘Our Adaar Love Story’s box office collections reached $52,156 in just one week in mid February, according to the Box Office Mojo figures.

Popular Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar’s ‘Kesari’ and the forthcoming film ‘The Tashkent Files’, starring the disco-dance star of the 1980s Mithun Chakraborty and critically acclaimed actor Naseeruddin Shah, due for release on April 12, are the next big Bollywood films that are expected to hit box office in the UAE and GCC.

“The GCC market has several advantages for Indian films in general and for Bollywood films in particular. Besides this market being closer home, the region has a large population of expat Indians. Also, even the expats living there from other countries including Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Egypt, besides the Arabs love cinema and like the ‘song-and-dance’ Bollywood movies,” Taran said.

“Even many people from the UK, Europe, the US and Australia who stay in UAE and other GCC are big fans of Bollywood films,” he added.

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