A tale of a small boy, Mowgli, wandering in an enchanting Indian forest with an entourage of his animal friends in “The Jungle Book” took the Indian box office by storm in 2016.

For industry experts, 2016 was the year of “The Jungle Book” — a Disney film through which Jon Favreau breathed new life into Rudyard Kipling’s timeless classic, backed by cutting-edge technology.

And, as Indian actors like Priyanka Chopra, Deepika Padukone, Irrfan Khan and Nimrat Kaur got busy with their foreign projects, there was a new chapter being scripted back home with Hollywood giving strong competition to Bollywood.

If we look at the Bollywood report card for the year, only eight out of the approximately 230 Hindi films released in 2016 surpassed the Rs 100 ($15 million) crore club.

“The Jungle Book”, with Indian-American actor Neel Sethi playing Mowgli, became the highest grossing Hollywood film of all time in India. The film came at the box office soon after superstar Shah Rukh Khan’s “Fan” on April 8 one week before opening in the US, and raced ahead of it. The film’s business collection stands at Rs 250 crore plus so far, and the second part is also in works.

Horror film “The Conjuring 2”, superhero films “Captain America: Civil War” and “X-Men: Apocalypse” also fared well at the box office.

Along with the films on supernatural themes, fantastic movies like “Moana”, “Finding Dory”, “The Angry Birds Movie” and “Kung Fu Panda 3” were also received well.

“From tent pole superhero films to horror genres, from thrillers to family entertainers, Hollywood has seen success across the board,” Vivek Krishnani, Managing Director, Sony Pictures Entertainment-India, told IANS.

According to Dharmesh Datta, Vice President Marketing, PVR Pictures, the growth of Hollywood films at the Indian box office in 2016 was encouraging.

“2016 has been the year of ‘The Jungle Book’. The film made a lot of people in Bollywood fraternity wonder what’s happening… That also woke up a lot of people in the regional content market to realise that great content is appreciated across board,” Datta told IANS.

Adding to it, Amrita Pandey, Vice President — Studios, Disney India, it was a phenomenal year for English movies in India.

“It has been the year of ‘Jungle Book’, ‘Captain America.’, ‘Doctor Strange’ and ‘Finding Dory’. Another thing that has been encouraging is that new franchises like ‘Doctor Strange’ worked well despite demonetisation coming (in the first half of November),” Pandey told IANS.

Marvel Studios’ “Doctor Strange”, a mystifying cinematic journey featuring Benedict Cumberbatch, saw a strong start in India with a weekend box office collection of Rs 10.10 crore. It released in India on November 4.

Talking of numbers, Krishnani told IANS: “Hollywood has shown double digit growth year on year in India since the last two years, with 2016 registering an approximately 17 per cent growth over 2015. The success of ‘Jungle Book’ has shown the sheer size and potential of a Hollywood film in India.”

If we open the number chart for Hollywood films at the Indian box office this year, then Warner Bros Pictures India’s total GBO (gross box office) figure for 2016 is over Rs 263 crore, with “The Conjuring 2” amassing more than Rs 83 crore, according to the banner.

For production studio Viacom18 Motion Pictures, “Star Trek Beyond” — which released in India on July 22 — turned out to be the best box office bet with collection figures standing at plus Rs 82 crore. Tom Cruise’s “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” was also steady with a business of over Rs 72 crore, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” — which made way into the Indian theatres in June — minted over Rs 64 crore.

From the Sony Pictures Entertainment stable, “The Angry Birds Movie”, “Don’t Breathe”, “Spotlight” and “Inferno” made 2016 worthwhile at the box office.

Ajit Andhare, Chief Operating Officer, Viacom18 Motion Pictures, says the production banners are now “moving beyond conventional cinema, and are constantly persevering to bring only the best of Hollywood to India”.

Krishnani said that the “overall share of Hollywood is still small as compared to the Hindi film industry”, but the consistency of the growth indicates that appeal for Hollywood content has increased.

Superheroes, animated characters and horror stories dominated at the Indian box office when it came to foreign films.

Pandey says though the success meter was “pretty much across genres”, it is visual spectacles that tend to do better in India.

Krishnani also said that other than great content, “local flavour definitely works”. He also said that dubbing an English language movie in different Indian regional languages has also widened the reach of Hollywood content.

Vijay Singh, CEO, Fox Star Studios, summed up saying that “viewers connected well with the high scale and entertaining content coming from Hollywood”.

Now, industry experts are hoping that the Hollywood movies’ successful run continues at the Indian box office in the year to come.

(Sugandha Rawal can be contacted at [email protected])

By Sugandha Rawal

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