Baahubali 2 set a record during the first weekend of May when it secured the best-ever opening weekend for an Indian movie in the US. It made US$10.1 million and even finished ahead of The Circle.
This can be treated as a sign that Hollywood is facing a rising challenger from Asia. But Hollywood still retains two major advantages over Bollywood, beyond historic pre-eminence: the English language and western wealth.
English is the global lingua franca. Because Hollywood speaks English, Hollywood speaks to the world. India does not truly have a national language (Hindi is spoken by about 55 per cent of the population). For this reason India’s film market is divided along linguistic and geographic lines. To go national, Baahubali 2 had to be made in four languages: Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Malyalam. Globally, Hollywood has the benefit of a much broader language base.
Second, note that while Baahubali 2 made US$10.1 million on opening weekend in America, in India it made the equivalent of about US$34 million for the weekend. Really that is not a lot for a record-setting, super-hyped wide release across a country of 1.3bn people. But Indian ticket prices are much lower than those in the western world; this means revenues are far below the Hollywood level.
For Baahubali 2, ticket prices, which are government-regulated, were capped in parts of India at 200 rupees, or about C$4.25. That’s not a lot by global standards, but it led to complaints that the common man was being gouged!
Baahubali 2, by the way, is a fantasy epic with romance and lots of fighting.