Hong Kong v. Bollywood

Culture, The Economy

Writing in the Asia Times, Zafar Anjum explores why China’s film industry has netted so much love from Hollywood, while India hasn’t produced a single art-house hit since Lagaan won the best foreign language film Oscar in 2001. Part of his answer is that the Indian film industry is content to live off of its loyal viewers:

India’s bright directors at home don’t give a damn about the global entertainment market. For them, netting in the desis (natives) everywhere generates enough moolah.

On the other hand, Hollywood sees the Chinese market as a potential cash cow:

At present, China’s box office receipts are meager compared to ticket sales in the US. However, with affluence, more Chinese are thronging to theaters. This phenomenon is especially true in megalopolis such as Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai. And if Beijing-based China E-Capital is to be believed, the domestic market is expected to grow to US$1.2 billion by 2007, from about $500 million in 2004. China is expected to eventually become the world’s second-biggest movie market, surpassing Europe ($4.4 billion in annual movie ticket sales) and Japan ($1.6 billion). Time-Warner is tapping into this growing market by investing in more than 70 cinemas around the mainland through joint ventures.

Now, I have some problems with the article. I don’t see Ang Lee (who is from Taiwan but made his career in Hollywood before making films in China) as that much different from Mira Nair. And there aren’t any numbers that let you get a real comparative sense of the two film industries. And, besides, is investment from Hollywood really that important to either film industry?

Still, with all the comparisons being made between India and China these days, it is interesting to look at the two film industries. Hopefully my East and South Asian readers will have some insights into all of this.

Further reading: GreenCine has a nice round up of books on Bollywood, Hong Kong and Korean cinema for anyone who wants to explore the issue more in depth. The author, David Chute, predicts that Thai cinema will be the next big thing…

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