Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is a smash hit at the American box office. Millions have already seen and loved the movie, and they’re telling everyone they “must” go see that movie. But not everyone, everywhere, is of the same opinion. In China, where American blockbusters are accustomed to cashing in, there’s an upstart surprise beating G2 at the box office.
Dangal, the “based on a true story” biopic about a former wrestler who brings his daughter up to follow in his career path outsold Guardians by more than $15 million recently. The Bollywood production centers on Indian megastar, Aamir Khan. He plays Mahavir Phogat, a real person whose real daughters eventually did represent their native land in the Olympics.
Some people who pay attention to these things say they expect Dangal to do well over $100 million at the Chinese box office, putting it in the running for biggest foreign film in China not made in Hollywood.
Many Chinese film critics are not surprised. Speaking to CNN, producer and critic Guan Yadi called the movie a gem. “I’m glad Chinese audiences have keen eyes to spot it… I’m not surprised at its huge success.”
For many years now, Bollywood films have been getting better. Bigger stars, larger production budgets, and more international interest. These days it’s hardly unusual to find a big-time Bollywood production right alongside many American films at US movie theaters.
The Indian movie industry is also finding a welcome partner in many domestic and international video streaming services. Going straight into consumers’ homes and onto their mobile devices has given the industry a big “in” to a fairly locked up marketplace.
Branching out has been the key to Bollywood’s success. The movie production industry, based in Mumbai, has been diligently opening and exploiting new markets in recent years, ever expanding its fan base from expats to locals who had never even heard of Bollywood a few short years ago.
The challenge, of course, is in cross-cultural appeal. As with American blockbusters, which have a huge following in Japan and China, Bollywood films had to adjust for cultural tastes. Dramas and romantic movies had to expand their approach and subject matter beyond what an Indian audience would appreciate…without alienating their core fan base. Sure, that sounds simple enough, but it’s actually very difficult to pull off properly.
That said, Bollywood is doing a lot of things the right way, so it’s a cinch Dangal will not be their last film to rake in the cash internationally.
David Milberg is an experienced credit analyst in NYC. He is a long-time owner of Milberg Factors, a factoring and finance company with locations in New York, California, and North Carolina.