Indian U.S. subsids thriving at indie box office

B.O.: $10.5 million (13 pics)
Top pic: “Lage raho munna bhai,” ($2.2 million)
Exec suite: Kishore Lulla, CEO; Vijay Ahuja, prexy, intl.; Ken Naz, prexy, U.S.
Up next: “Nahne Jaisalmer” (Sept. 14), “Mr. White Mr. Black” (Sept. 28), “Bhool bhulaiyaa” (Oct. 12)

B.O.: $5.7 million (6 pics)
Top pic: “Dhoom 2” ($2.6 million)
Exec suite: Jawahar Sharma, head of operations
Up next: “Laaga chunari mein daag — Journey of a Woman” (Oct. 12), “Aaja nachle” (Nov. 30)

B.O.: $3.3 million (4 pics)
Top pic: “Guru,” $2.1 million
Exec suite: Uday Kumar, head, business, North America
Up next: “Dhol” (Sept 21), “Johnny Gaddar” (Sept 28), “Duhala mil gaya” ( November)

B.O.: $2.4 million (4 pics)
Top pic: “Don,” $2.2 million
Exec suite: Ronnie Screwvala, CEO; Lokesh Dhar, VP; Prakash Ramachandran, controller
Up next: “Dhan dhana dhan goal,” “Jodha akbar,” “Taare zameen par,” “Welcome” (2008)

B.O.: $1.1 million (2 pics)
Top pic: “Bhagham bhag” ($790K)
Exec suite: Pradeep Abichandani, CEO
Up next: TBA

Analysis: The foreign-language distribs consistently racking up more than $1 million at the indie box office are the Bollywood labels — five Indian U.S. subsids that exclusively handle Asian pic imports. Together, Eros, UTV, Rainbow, Adlabs and Yash Raj have amassed at least $23 million in box office since Labor Day weekend 2006, up 39% over the same frame a year ago.

For the most part, these distribs operate in similar fashion. Often their domestic releases open day and date with India. Their widest release rarely exceeds 200 screens and typically plays in theaters for no longer than six weeks.

“The movie business itself is a two- to four-week business, plus we’re also concerned about piracy,” explains Eros’ U.S. topper Ken Naz, whose studio is celebrating its 30th anniversary. In the last year, Eros notched five pics grossing more than $1 million, one of which, “Salaam-e-ishq,” Naz decribes as a “Love Actually”-type of romantic comedy.

While UTV’s only boffo grosser was the crime actioner “Don,” the studio made a foray into such Hollywood co-productions as Chris Rock’s “I Think I Love My Wife” and Mira Nair’s drama “The Namesake.” Next U.S. co-production for the label will be M. Night Shyamalan’s mystery-thriller “The Happening.”

Rainbow had just two releases in the last two Labor Day-to-Labor Day slots but expanded its domestic B.O. tally by threefold in the latest frame. Notably, its top U.S. grosser, “Bhagam bhag,” made $10 million in India.

Thanks to its parent company’s focus on inhouse productions over acquisitions, Yash Raj can now count on a six-pic slate annually. “The whole process of distribution has been systemized there. It says something about the professionalism of India’s cinema,” says U.S.-based exec Jawahar Sharma. Yash Raj also has partnered with Walt Disney to produce local animated films.

And the youngest of the Bollywood distribs, going into its second year Stateside, Adlabs doubled its domestic B.O. thanks to an uptick in titles. Its largest grosser, “Guru,” was based loosely on the life of rags-to-riches tycoon Dhirubhai Ambani, who launched one of India’s largest congloms.

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