Bollywood jolly over B.O. boost

Hindi-language film industry ends 2005 in the red

NEW DELHI Hollywood may have ended the year in a sweat over dwindling auds, but Bollywood is breathing a little easier after four blockbusters by veteran Hindi actor Amitabh Bachchan helped arrest its declining fortunes.

According to film analysts, Bollywood, India’s prolific Hindi-language film industry, ended 2005 in the red to the tune of around 1.35 billion rupees ($29.8 million) against losses of $33.5 million in 2004.

The industry invested some $223 million in nearly 150 movies during the year, 20 of which were box office hits, according to analyst Komal Nahta.

Four of the 20 starred 63-year-old Bachchan — “Black,” “Waqt” (Time), “Sarkar” (Godfather) and “Bunty aur Babli” — which together grossed $22.3 million.

“Bachchan was responsible for lower losses to a large extent after giving four super hits in 2005,” Nahta says. “No other actor achieved what Bachchan did this year, which goes to prove his clout.”

In the United States, the number of admissions fell by 7% compared with the same period in 2004, according to box office tracker Exhibitor Relations. Nahta says Indian filmmakers lured fans back to the movies with new storylines.

“The success-to-failure ratio remained the same at around 15%,” says Indu Mirani, another analyst. “But in absolute terms, the movies that were successful were bigger hits with higher earnings, which shows that more tickets were sold in 2005.”

Bollywood’s biggest hit was a comedy, “No Entry,” starring Salman Khan, which grossed $10 million on an outlay of $3.3 million.

The offbeat “Page 3” — an attempt to look into the lives of the country’s elites through the eyes of a journalist — also clicked, earning $2.7 million on an outlay of $670,000.

The big disappointment was big budget historical film “The Rising: Ballad of Mangal Pandey,” starring Aamir Khan.

Pirates, meanwhile, continued to erode Bollywood’s earnings. Mirani points out that Bollywood lost at least $111.6 million to piracy.

She adds: “It’s the biggest menace for movie industries world over and Bollywood is no exception.”

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