25 April 2016

Disney’s ‘Jungle Book’ Becomes India’s Highest-Grossing Hollywood Film

NEW DELHI— Walt Disney Co. has managed to do something with its new remake of “The Jungle Book” that many Oscar-winning movies have failed to do: sell in India.

The film, based on a collection of stories by Rudyard Kipling, earned more than $24 million in ticket sales during its first two weeks in Indian theaters—according to Disney and BoxOfficeIndia.com—making it the highest-grossing Hollywood film of all time here.

Disney’s earnings in India are a small slice of the $357 million “The Jungle Book” has grossed world-wide. The movie has made about $125 million in its domestic market—the U.S. and Canada—and $64 million in China. India is its third-biggest market.

The Jungle Book’s Indian ticket sales are also not a huge haul compared with last year’s biggest domestic blockbuster, which took in more than twice as much at the box office. But it is a sign U.S. studios are gaining significant traction in the world’s second-most-populous country, a market that has long eluded them.

A girl walks in front of a poster of “The Jungle Book” outside a cinema hall in Mumbai, India. The film earned more than $24 million in ticket sales during its first two weeks in Indian theaters. PHOTO: RAJANISH KAKADE/ASSOCIATED PRESS

One of the secrets to Disney’s success was a marketing campaign that tapped into nostalgia among young adults for the Jungle Book stories, which revolve around the adventures of an Indian boy named Mowgli. A cartoon series based on Kipling’s tales, which was made in Japan, was hugely popular when it aired on state television in India in the 1990s.

Disney wanted to “awaken the Mowgli in every Indian,” said Amrita Pandey, a vice president at Disney in India. In addition to children, the movie drew “parents, young working adults—everyone who wanted to come see the film. And that happened because we revived their childhood,” she said.

The studio composed its own rendition of the animated series’ Hindi theme song, which has become a generational touchstone for Indians now in their late 20s and 30s. Disney’s music video has racked up more than 5 million views on YouTube.

The company also expanded the film’s reach by distributing it dubbed in three local languages—Hindi, Tamil and Telugu—in addition to the English version. The non-English versions accounted for more than half of all ticket sales. “It is really tough to get the numbers if it’s just an English film,” Ms. Pandey said.

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