Since setting up its US distribution operation last year, Indian entertainment giant Adlabs has released a swathe of Bollywood pictures to US-based Indian audiences, including sci-fi box-office hit Krrish, which took $2.2m across North America.
Now, the company is gearing up for its first ever release to US mainstream theatres, with Hollywood-Bollywood romantic comedy Marigold, which rolls out in English on 80 screens across North America on August 17 - the same day it hits India, the UK and other territories.
"It's a challenge, and we decided to bite the bullet," says Uday Kumar, head of US operations at Adlabs.
The company decided to start releasing movies in the US last year after realising that second or third-generation Indians in North America are "increasingly relating to Indian movies in a big way - more so than earlier generations of Indian immigrants," Kumar says.
Indian-owned 'mom-and-pop' cinemas in the US currently represent 30%-40% of the overseas business of a Hindi movie, Kumar adds.
But the success of recent crossover Indian movies such as Mira Nair's The Namesake and a growing demand for Indian films from US cinema chains, has spurred Adlabs to take the plunge into mainstream theatres with Marigold.
The $10m English-language picture focuses on a US actress, stranded in Mumbai, who is cast in a Bollywood musical and falls for her choreographer. Co-produced by Adlabs and LA-based Hyperion Pictures, the film stars Ali Larter - who has recently garnered a big fan base thanks to her role on the hit TV series Heroes - and Bollywood star Salman Khan, widely popular among South Asians in the US.
Kumar admits that in terms of mainstream US distribution, Adlabs has had a steep learning curve. The company usually markets its films on a number of North American satellite and cable TV channels that broadcast Indian programming to around 100,000 families across the country. The distributor also relies heavily on buzz the films have already enjoyed in India.
But Kumar found that differences with a mainstream release ranged from the length of a trailer run to structuring a release schedule and "progressively building buzz across different cities". To help out, the company brought in marketing expert Paula Silver, who worked on crossover hit My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
Adlabs, which is marketing the picture as a young US woman's life-changing adventure in an exotic place, decided to open the film first in cities with a large South Asian community such as in Southern California, New York, Washington, New Jersey and Texas, before widening its release.
Adlabs has also held a series of screenings and press interviews in critic-heavy New York and Los Angeles, as well as doing a radio tour in key markets.
"We had to unlearn certain things from India and plan maximum public awareness before the film's release," says Kumar.