Mktg for big ticket Hollywood films can go up to Rs 13 cr: Rudrarup Datta

Viacom18 Motion Pictures left no stone unturned to promote the Hollywood action flick ‘xXx: Return of Xander Cage’ in India ahead of its launch. The Paramount Pictures and Revolution Studios movie is exclusively distributed in India by Viacom18 Motion Pictures. 

The film has generated a lot of interest in the country owing to Deepika Padukone starring in the film. The movie was released on January 14, 2017 in India, a week ahead of its global launch. After wowing moviegoers in Mexico and London as part of the global domination tour, actor Vin Diesel visited India for the premiere along with Deepika Padukone and the film’s director DJ Caruso. 

Giving audiences a firsthand experience of the film acclaimed for its extreme sports action, a grand fan event was organised in Mumbai, with a spectacular line-up of entertainment ranging from BMX stunt-bikers to skateboarders and B-Boying troupes. Nucleya further took the stage and kept the fans in a trance up until Vin Diesel, Deepika Padukone and DJ Caruso made their entrance to greet the fans. 

In conversation with Adgully, Rudrarup Datta, Head of Marketing, Viacom18 Motion Pictures, speaks at length about the massive promotion campaign ahead of the India release of ‘xXx: Return of Xander Cage’, rebranding select PVR theatres for the film, changing dynamics of movie marketing and more. Excerpts:

What did it entail to bring ‘xXx: Return of Xander Cage’ to India, given the immense interest in the film starring Deepika Padukone?
Viacom18 Motion Pictures represents Paramount Pictures in India for all their releases, and as part of that we have released ‘xXx’ in the country. Given the fact that the film has Deepika Padukone as the lead actress, India was priority one market for a change. Moreover, Hollywood studios’ interest in the Indian market is also on the rise, given the good performance and higher penetration that Hollywood is witnessing. This time, the focus has clearly been on the Tier I cities for Paramount and that’s why we could swing in a large promotional plan which included Vin Diesel’s visit to India, which is a rare phenomenon. In the recent times, the only Hollywood star who has come to promote his film has been Tom Cruise, which was five years back for ‘Mission Impossible’, which, incidentally, was also organised by us. Since then no A-list Hollywood actor has really come in to promote their films. 

Please tell us about the various brand associations for the film.
We haven’t gone the brand route in a big way, but we got a lot of partners who came on board to put the entire event together. Thus, PVR was a huge partner, where we not only organised the film’s premiere, but also had a high decibel promotion campaign at PVR theatres since October last year. We also did a theatre takeover for the first time ever, wherein three theatres of PVR were converted into ‘xXx PVR’ – right from rebranding of the seats to washrooms to creating xXx gaming zones and selfie spots. It was hugely successful and got a lot of traction. St. Regis came on board as the hospitality partner, supported us in terms of promotions, YouTube and Facebook came in very strongly to partner along the event. We were live on YouTube on their trending page on the day of the film’s premiere in India. We were on Facebook Live with a special booth. Fever FM, Movies Now and Vh1 also partnered with us in a big way. So, we went more the partnership route with this one rather than brand associations. 

For how long will the xXx PVR branding continue?
Since the film is being released in a staggered, structured way, the branding will continue as the film releases throughout the country. Last week, the film was released in 3D IMax. On Friday, January 20, we will release the film in 2D in the remaining parts of the country. Hence, we would continue with this up to the end of next week, that is, January 26.

Please elaborate on the various marketing and promotion initiatives for ‘xXx’.
Apart from a lot of on-ground activities, there was a heavy use of social media that we have done for the film’s promotion. The entire planning of this campaign, which began in October last year, was based on three pillars. The first was, of course, doing everything in scale. Penetration was a big standpoint and so was localisation. We needed to go to as many towns as possible. This was one Hollywood film where we decided to go as Indian as possible because we had that advantage of having Deepika Padukone as the leading lady. In fact, this is the first time ever that a major Hollywood studio has created a trailer for one character, which is Deepika, solely for the Indian market. Hence, we did this special trailer which we launched during the opening episode of ‘Bigg Boss 10’ on Colors, which gave us massive mileage. We got Vin Diesel to greet all his fans in India during Diwali last year. We clearly started this journey of localisation long time back and we began from thereon. 

Even on social media when we announced that Vin would be arriving in India, it was all about – ‘Kahan Le Jaoge’, ‘Kahan Khilaoge’ and ‘Kisse Milaoge’. Everything was done in a cool local way. There was also another contest that we did, wherein we asked fans in India how they looked dope while doing everyday stuff – for instance, ‘How do you look dope while eating vadapav?’ Thus, everything kind of had a badass attitude, which is very ‘xXx’. Even the entire tour reflected the same strategy. Right from Vin’s arrival, which had girls clad in traditional Maharashtrian Nauvari sarees riding Royal Enfield bikes, which was clearly ‘xXx’, but in desi style. Vin came to the press conference in Indian attire, the entire fan event which had Nucleya in it, and the film’s premiere, for which the whole of Bollywood had turned up – so, it was a perfect Indianisation of Hollywood that we had set up for ‘xXx: Return of Xander Cage’.

What is the average budget for marketing a Hollywood film in India in today’s landscape?
It depends completely on what title you are doing and what kind of penetration level you want to gain through it. It may range anywhere from Rs 3-4 crore for a small film and go up to Rs 10 crore to almost Rs 13-odd crore for a large format film. Definitely, the budget is way higher than what it used to be earlier because the films are also performing far better in India. 

What are the challenges of bringing big ticket Hollywood films to markets like India?
Most of the Hollywood films are made for a global audience. So, first thing is to make sure that the content of the film is relatable to the Indian audiences. The other challenge, of course, is the theatre penetration. Hollywood films are mainly enjoyed in a multiplex environment. Hence, the penetration of multiplexes is also a very important factor for the growth of Hollywood films, which is happening, but probably not at the pace we ideally would have wanted it to happen. 

What more needs to be done to increase reach and contact for a new film release, especially in second rung cities which also have a sizeable audience for Hollywood films?
We definitely need more 2k movie format screens as Hollywood films primarily run on the 2K format which provide a higher grade of picture quality, which is a global standard. Combating piracy is a very important factor and Hollywood is extremely concerned about that. And of course, creating films based in India and our actors being part of Hollywood films are going to be extremely critical. The good thing that is unlike earlier where Bollywood actors were seen just in two-bit roles in Hollywood films, today we are seeing our actors in the lead roles in a major Hollywood production. I think ‘xXx’ in that sense is going to be the benchmark for many which are going to be there in the Hollyood landscape in India.


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