Despite great publicity and media buzz, Baahubali, one of the most successful Indian films, failed to create an impact in China, where it released on the 22 July on about 6,000 screens in the country. Directed by SS Rajamouli, the film was distributed in by E Stars, the company which had released Aamir Khan starrer PK in China back in mid-2015.
According to Chinafilminsider, the film had an attendance of only 12 people per screening. The film’s international length was cut to 129 minutes from 144 minutes of the original version. By its opening weekend, Baahubali had raked in only $630,000 and was ranked at number 9 at the box-office, which was quite unexpected, given the promotions that were made in major Chinese cities. In May, E Stars flew several journalists from China to meet and interact with the cast and crew of the film in Hyderabad.
— Baahubali (@BaahubaliMovie) May 31, 2016
PK has been the highest-grossing Indian film in China with over $20 million, after a release on 4,500 screens. According to a Xinhua report quoting Wang Fenglin, vice president of the Chinese Film Producers Association, imported films make up almost 50 percent of the Chinese market. With an annual increase in theatres by 30 percent, he said the Chinese film market would overtake the US market to become the largest in the world by 2018. Since the release of Raj Kapoor’s Awara (1951), Indian films have had a market in China. In fact, Bollywood films, in particular, are so popular that some of the songs have been used as ringtones.
“Bollywood comedy PK grossed an impressive $19.4 million in China in 2015, opening up talks between the two countries for more co-production opportunities and exciting Indian producers looking to gain access to the world’s second largest and fastest growing film market. Indian press had been building the hype for Baahubali’s China release for months and, despite steep discounts on most Chinese online ticketing sites, as well as local media coverage, moviegoers stayed away,” wrote Jonathan Papish, for chinafilminsider.com.
Bad timing is what is attributed to the film’s failure in the country. July usually sees releases of domestic films. This year, the Chinese regulators allowed five imported films to release in China and out of them, three films – Tarzan, Doraemon: Nobita and the Birth of Japan 2016 and Baahubali – released on the same weekend.
Moreover, China’s box office dropped 4.6 percent in the second quarter of 2016, due to a subsidy reduction that has impacted the film industry there. Wang Changtian, CEO of Enlight Media Co Ltd, one of China’s top film companies, said, “After the subsidy decreases, the audience will not buy as many tickets as they did before. This will show their real consuming capacity. In fact, the ticket price may be a little bit higher for them.”
Further, the release of films like Jet Li’s League and Jackie Chan’s Skiptrace has overshadowed other films that were released around the same time. Another reason attributed to this is that the release of the film the country was a lot later after the initial release in India, making it available on many streaming platforms as well as unethical download.
Baahubali features Prabhas, Rana Daggubati, Anushka Shetty, and Tamannah Bhatia in the lead roles, while Sathyaraj, Nasser and Ramya Krishnan have essayed important roles. The second part of the film will be released in April, 2017.