Happy New Year gets widest ever iTunes release for a Bollywood film

Red Chilies Entertainment, the producer of 2014’s Diwali blockbuster Happy New Year (HNY), is banking on the digital platform to ensure longevity of the film.

As a result, the Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone and Abhishek Bachchan starrer has been made available on iTunes in 96 countries, most with region specific sub-titles, making HNY the widest Bollywood release on iTunes. The intention is to take this to 110 countries over the next few months. 

The film released in India on 24 October last year, a day after Diwali. It was simultaneously released in North America, the Middle East and United Kingdom, which are the traditional overseas markets for Bollywood. Since then, the film has raked in Rs 379 (gross) crore in worldwide theatrical revenues.

“However, taking the film to more territories abroad needs to be financially viable. A territory may have fans, but need not necessarily have an audience. In such cases, the cost of a theatrical release becomes prohibitive. Digitally however, the content can be taken to numerous countries, and can be accessed by viewers at their convenience,” says Gaurav Verma, chief revenue officer at RCE.

The film is available on iTunes is the rental (video-on-demand) and electronic sell through (online version of a DVD) and in both cases, RCE follows a revenue share model with their partners. The film, through this medium will be available in territories like Netherlands, Azerbaijan and countries in Latin America like Mexico, Chile and the Dominican Rebuplic.

Verma says that it is too early to share the revenue expected from the iTunes platform, but is bullish about the exercise. He adds that since digital is a medium where the movie can stay in the library, the shelf life is increased considerably which will help the movie to continue making money in the future. 

HNY is available on the iTunes India store for Rs 490, while in the US store, it costs $ 19.99 and in the Great Britain store, it costs GBP 13.99. Viewers in the Netherlands can avail the movie for 16.99 Euros while those in Australia and New Zealand need to shell out $ 29.99. 

Apart from the iTunes store, the film is available worldwide on the official HNY website. The home-page, apart from having options to learn trivia about the film, see select scenes and photos, read what is written about the film in the press and blogs, also has the option to purchase a digital copy of the film.

This service is available only in select countries (like the USA) as of now, but the plan is to make the service available worldwide eventually. The film is available for $ 4.99 and a film+bonus package can be bought for $ 6.99. Currently, only the streaming option is available on the website.

“This was part of our ‘direct-to-fan engagement. SRK’s popularity across the world makes it possible for his movies to explore new markets for Bollywood. With Chennai Express the opened up Peru. With digital, we can further expand the reach of Bollywood. For example, this time, we also included the option of gifting a digital copy to a friend. These are the innovations we need to try in order to grow the business and reach of Bollywood,” says Verma.

Additionally, the film was released in China on February 12 across 5000 screens. The film was cleared by SAARFT on January 1 with worldwide Distributors – Yash Raj Films (YRF) entering a deal with 1905 Pictures (film distribution arm of China Central Television Movie Channel / CCTV) who will distribute locally along with China Film Group.

Next, in terms of theatrical release, RCE is looking at Japan. Korea and Russia, with dubbed versions.