By RAHUL RAUT
There was a time when Hindi films were rarely seeing a release in France. In 2012, Yash Raj Films’ ‘Ek Tha Tiger’ was released in only four theatres however, today a things have changed. Hindi film can now benefit from getting a release in as much as 60 theatres in France.
Bollycine France, a nonprofit organisation, also known as ‘The French Voice of Indian Cinema’ is one of the strongest reasons behind this revolutionary change in the release of Hindi films in the western European country, in such a short span of time.
The organisation which supports French distributors of Indian films in the programming, communication, and promotion of their outings to operators, the media and the public throughout France, recently celebrated its fifth anniversary. We talked to its founder and manager, Sarah Beauvery about its establishment, five years journey, the achievements and its future plans.
How was Bollycine established?
Bollycine is not a distributor but a non-profit organisation (under the French law 1901) that aims at promoting and democratising Indian cinema (Bollywood) in French movie theaters. Localised in La Roche Sur Yon – France, we work all over France mainly with the French distributor Aanna Films. Our organisation was born officially on 10th of December 2012.
Bollycine was created following the release of Salman Khan’s movie ‘Ek Tha Tiger’. The film released only in 4 theatres in France. I then convinced the French distributor Aanna Films to schedule the movie in Nantes in September 2012. I managed the movie’s promotion including social networks, advertising, media and all. On the D-Day, the room was full. People from all backgrounds came to watch it.
The idea of Bollycine actually came when I was traveling in a train. If we wanted to give a chance to Indian cinema to exist in French theatres, we needed to gather all fans of Indian cinema with us. This was the beginning of Bollycine, an organisation created to promote and support releases of Indian movies in French theatres all over France. The concept is simple: Bollycine negotiates in the film programming directly with exhibitors. Then our local volunteer teams manage the promotion of the movies in their city. We also create events with Bollywood dance associations around the movies.
Thanks to our efforts, in 2013 we had doubled the film programming of ‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan’ (our first movie supported with Bollycine). The same year, the worldwide famous Cannes Film Festival celebrated the hundred year of Indian cinema and Bollycine was invited to the Festival. In 2015, Bollycine was accredited to Mumbai Film Festival and in 2016 and 2017 to IIFA Madrid and New York respectively.
What was the intention of starting Bollycine, and have you achieved that in five years?
We have expanded our network and now we get a partnership with the most important networks of movie theatres in France. Since 2012, Bollycine has supported 25 movies. We have a strong partnership with 30 French theatres and we manage 35 teams of volunteers in 35 cities. We believe that Indian cinema is not reserved for the Indian community and have actively participated in its development in France. Today a movie can potentially release in 60 theatres instead of 4. So yes, we can say we have achieved part of our purpose even if we have still a long way to work.
This year, we released ‘Tubelight’ in 60 theatres making it the first biggest release for a Bollywood movie in France. For the first time, theatres displayed posters inside and outside their walls.
We have pioneered a new way to work for Indian cinema in partnership with Aanna Films. Three other specialised distributors (Tamil and Hindi movies) have also come into existence since then (in France) but we have chosen to support only Aanna Films by choice, confidence and loyalty. It’s a serious distribution company which does a really good job. Also, we are happy to reach more and more theatres with each big release. We plan to reach over 60 theatres for Padmavati.
What was the status of Hindi films distribution in France initially (when Bollycine wasn’t there) and how is it now?
Indian cinema had never been supported by French media, theaters exhibitors and distributors and hence it wasn’t working initially here. The audience had a negative image, full of stereotypes. The future of Indian cinema was condemned in our country. The distributor Bodega had bought few movies in 2006 but they weren’t able to continue. They didn’t believe in it and had no strategy. The movies were released many years after Indian release.
But in 2011, a new independent film distributor named, Aanna Films arrived on the circuit to focus on Indian cinema. They have chosen to do simultaneous release in France since then. Courageously, they convinced a big multiplexes network (Pathe Gaumont) to allow them and released a few Tamil movies. And finally, in 2012, they released their first Bollywood movie, ‘Ek Tha Tiger’ with Salman Khan.
However, in 2012, Aanna Films found it difficult to convince theatre owners outside Paris. For exhibitors, nobody was interested in Indian cinema. So seeing the requirement of the time, we came with Bollycine with the idea of making it the voice of Indian cinema among the French fans and audiences. Today exhibitors are more open and curious. The mentality has really changed. It’s not difficult to convince them now.
It has been five years of Bollycine. How has this organisation changed Hindi films viewing in France? Tell us about its achievements.
Bollycine is a unique and original concept. There is no other organisation in France like it. This is the only one which works on communication, promotion on the ground and films programming of Indian movies all over France. We are the only one to have such large network in over 35 cities. We have perfect knowledge of the audience and theatres with our five years of experience.
But from now, we must step up our efforts to develop heavily business of Indian cinema. We must work and invest in the depth of the promotion and communication of Indian movies. Our desire has always been to democratise Indian cinema and reach to a mainstream audience. Our particularity is to seek constantly partnerships based on French culture and not essentially Indian. Encouraging the complimentary of our cultures is essential.
France is the land of cinema, a key reference in the International film industry. Our goal is to give Bollywood cinema the prominent place it deserves. We want to give it a stability in long-term and support periodic big releases and encourage Indo-French cooperation. Independent Indian movies enjoy a great support in France. We want the same for Bollywood movies but we can’t do that without the support from Indian film industry. That’s why I regularly travel to Mumbai to meet the Indian directors, actors and journalists to explain our action in France and to gain their support. Salman Khan and Kabir Khan (director) have supported our action by their video messages.
We aim to become a direct provider of services for Indian producers/distributors for upcoming Bollywood movie releases in France and coordinate our work with the French distributor (Aanna Films for a moment), exhibitors, audience, media etc…. We wish to become a trusted intermediary to give an accurate sample of the situation in France and its development. Our competitive advantage is to have an established national presence and to be flexible thanks to our status.
From 2018, we wish to develop our own resources and organise three divisions dedicated to Bollywood. They are:
– Continue to support Bollywood movies all over France
– Continue to develop Indian movies with french students in school, college, university.
– Develop French theatres network
– Cultivate audience loyalty in partnership with theatres
– And develop big national releases and full film programming in movies theatres (that means during one-week minimum).
COMMUNICATION / MEDIA
– Develop innovative marketing actions and communication techniques to support Bollywood movies releases
– Creation of a specialised media team accredited to major Bollywood events in France / Europe / India
– Develop our team’s network all over France to support Indian movies
– Develop movies merchandising in France
– Work on the organization of French events with Bollywood stars.
– Continue to develop partnership with Indian and Bollywood dance associations
– Support organization of premieres of Indian movies and encourage Indian actors to support their movies in France.
We think about a strong plan where Bollycine would be in a position to continue the development of Bollywood movies in France and thrive as an Indian representative in France.