Hindi-language films account for around 10% of all UK releases and all the major cinema circuits play Bollywood product.
A mid-range Bollywood release in the UK will go out on 25-30 prints. "On the biggest ones you'd go 40-plus - it depends if there's crossover potential," says Cineworld's film buyer Andreas Vass. According to figures from Nielsen EDI and the UK Film Council, the average number of sites for a Hindi film at the widest point of release in 2007 was 28.
Screen averages can be strong on Bollywood titles and Studio 18's Tanuj Garg says: "I always tell exhibitors to look at screen averages and print averages, because a lot of non-Asian product ends up with fantastic grosses but at the end of the day you have to view those grosses in conjunction with the number of prints."
Cineworld has around 23 first-run sites, while Odeon Cinemas has 10.
"While Bollywood remains a relatively small market when compared to the mainstream, it's still a market that's massively important to us," says Nathan Gilligan, film booker at Odeon Cinemas, who adds that the company will this year be introducing a Bollywood sub-brand identity to be used within relevant cinemas and on www.odeon.co.uk.
Distributor-exhibitor relations are "very good", says UTV's Siddharth Roy Kapur, while Garg says: "It's very encouraging to see that many exhibitors are extremely clued into Bollywood."
While a wider Bollywood crossover has been mooted for years, non-resident South Asians still make up the lion's share of the UK audience. Says Kapur: "They're looking to go back to their roots by watching Indian films. Any movie that might be light and romantic and is a typical Hindi film would do very well in the UK. Movies that are a little bit off the beaten track are difficult to release there."
That said, Mira Nair's immigrant family drama The Namesake hit the $1m (£500,000) mark in the UK, and Jag Mundhra's Provoked: A True Story almost matched it with more than $940,000 (£475,000). But they proved an exception to the rule.
Meanwhile, the Tamil-languge market is also growing in the UK, with recent hits including this year's Bheema, which took more than $150,000 (£75,600), and 2007's Sivaji, which took more than $790,000 (£400,000). The Tamil audience is different to the Bollywood one, says Cineworld's Vass, although there is some crossover on bigger films.
Tamil-language product tends to work in locales in and around London such as Wandsworth, Feltham and Ilford.
Odeon's Gilligan says: "There are an increasing number of Indian titles released in the UK. However, I feel there is scope for significant further growth."
|TOP 10 INDIAN FILMS IN UK, 2007|
|Box-office Title (DIST)||date||gross|
|1||Om Shanti Om (Eros Int'l)||Nov 9||$2.6m (£1.3m)|
|2||Welcome (Studio 18)||Dec 21||$1.8m (£0.9m)|
|3||Namastey London (Eros Int'l)||Mar 23||$1.7m (£0.87m)|
|4||Salaam E-Ishq (Eros Int'l)||Jan 26||$1.5m (£0.77m)|
|5||Ta Ra Rum Pum (Yash Raj)||Apr 27||$1.5m (£0.77m)|
|6||Laaga Chunari Mein Daag (Yash Raj)||Oct 12||$1.4m (£0.7m)|
|7||Heyy Babyy (Eros Int'l)||Aug 24||$1.4m (£0.7m)|
|8||Bhool Bhulaiyaa (Eros Int'l)||Oct 12||$1.3m (£0.66m)|
|9||Jhoom Barabar Jhoom (Yash Raj)||Jun 15||$1.25m (£0.64m)|
|10||Apne (Tip Top Entertainment)||Jun 29||$1.1m (£0.57m)|