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Disney Confirms Plan to Quit Indian Filmmaking

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Courtesy of Disney

Disney Thursday confirmed plans to cease film-making in India, one of the few territories in the world where its local-language production business had a sizeable market share. Its film business will now focus mainly on distribution of the studio’s Hollywood slate.

“We periodically review and realign our business priorities in response to evolving market dynamics. Given the challenges with the current economic model for investing in the local film industry, we intend to shift the focus of our film strategy to driving our Hollywood movie slate in India,” a Disney India spokesman told Variety by email. ” These movies enjoyed considerable success including ‘The Jungle Book’ which is the highest grossing Hollywood movie of all time inn India. We are remain optimistic about the incredible potential of the Indian market and will continue to invest in growing the Disney brand Iin India with our movies, television networks, consumer and interactive products and live experiences.”

Disney has endured a series of flops for its locally-produced films and there is widespread talk that Disney India MD and CEO Siddharth Roy Kapur is soon to leave the company.

Recent film failures have included: “Mohenjo Daro,” made on a budget of $15 million, but which grossed $8.5 million; “Fitoor,” made for $10 million, but which grossed $3 million; and “Katti Batti,” made for  $5 million and which collected only $3.2 million. In contrast, Indian-themed “The Jungle Book” grossed $27 million.

Traditionally, Hollywood films have enjoyed only a tiny sliver of the theatrical market, and have struggled to find a place alongside Hindi-language Bollywood mainstream titles, or regional language cinema. Hollywood’s share has grown to a figure now approaching 10% as a result of the spread of multiplexes and digital cinema, and more globalized tastes among Indian audiences. The Hollywood distributors have also adopted smart marketing and distribution, most notably an increased use of dubbing into regional languages — a move which is increasingly being copied by the Bollywood players.

The exit comes only a few years after Disney acquired UTV, which owned a bouquet of TV channels and ran as one of Bollywood’s four major integrated movie studios.

However, it comes at a time when another significant film and TV producer Balaji Telefilms is also understood to be quitting the movies.