Latest Movies Releases Indian

Star Wars fans in the U.S. and most of the world will see the latest installment of the popular franchise on Friday. The movie releases in India a week later. courtesy Walt Disney Co.

The first Star Wars movie in a decade releases next week—but not in India.

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” doesn’t open in Indian cinemas until Dec. 25, a week later than most of the world.

Shah Rukh Khan. And Ranveer Singh, Priyanka Chopra and Deepika Padukone. The Bollywood stars feature in two presumed blockbusters opening Dec. 18, the same day of the international release of “Star Wars.”

Walt Disney Co., which now owns the rights to the Star Wars franchise, didn’t want one of the most highly-anticipated movies in a decade to go head-to-head with some of Bollywood’s biggest names.

“Christmas Day is a holiday all over and an ideal time we believe for the release of this epic movie, for all our Indian viewers, ” says Amrita Pandey, head of marketing at Disney India.

It could also help build the hype around the movie.

Indians will see how excited the rest of the world is about the film, “ramping up the demand further by the time we release it in Indian theaters, ” Ms. Pandey said.

Indian megastar Shah Rukh Khan is reuniting with one of his most famous co-stars, Kajol in “Dilwale.” Young, up-and-comers Messrs. Singh, Chopra and Padukone star in a big budget, historical drama called “Bajirao Mastani.”

In India, Mr. Khan is an almost-guaranteed blockbuster success, more so when he appears alongside Kajol. Think of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in terms of star attraction. One Khan-Kajol film ran in cinemas for over 20 years.

“Bajirao Mastani” is India’s answer to “Gladiator, ” a big budget period drama with large armies, and swords. “It’s like a Hollywood film, ” says Jyoti Deshpande, chief executive of Eros International, the movie’s production company. “It’s not a small love story with people running around trees.”

It is unusual for Bollywood to release two big films on the same weekend, for obvious reasons: more competition. But the bigger reason is a shortage of cinemas.

There are between 10 to 12 movie screens for every million Indians, compared to 125 for the same number of Americans, says Ms. Deshpande. A major Bollywood hit might show on just under 5, 000 movie screens, and make $15 million at the box office. That’s only slightly more than “Hot Tub Time Machine 2” made this year.

Trying to compete with another big film in India, where families might go to one or two movies a month, is often “a zero-sum game, ” says Sudhanshu Vats, chief executive of Viacom18, a joint venture between Viacom Inc. and India’s Network 18. “Essentially, there is a high probability that both movies will perform below their maximum potential at the box office.”

This isn’t the first time Disney has moved a movie release in India. “Avengers: Age of Ultron” released in India a week before the U.S. to avoid competing with a big Indian film.

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