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In India, soccer and Hollywood gain on cricket and Bollywood

In India, soccer and Hollywood gain on cricket and Bollywood

Indian soccer fans attend an outdoor screening of a World Cup game in Mumbai. © Reuters

NEW DELHI -- A wave of international entertainment is hitting India, an enormous market with a relatively narrow scope for sports and movies. Soccer fever is encroaching on the country's long-standing love of cricket, while in the cities, Hollywood's popularity is beginning to outpace Bollywood's.

For one bar in the New Delhi suburb of Gurugram, the World Cup in Russia delivered brisk business. "On the night of the final match, we were so busy," said Vinod Adhikari, a 24-year-old employee. "Customers ordered beers and whiskeys again and again while cheering."

The bar features several menu displays that mimic stock exchange boards. Prices of drinks rise as more of them are ordered and fall as they lose popularity. A cricket game is usually on some of the screens, with music playing from the speakers.

During the World Cup, however, things were different. The games were shown on all the screens, with the sound of the broadcasts blaring.

India's interest in the World Cup has been picking up sharply. Viewership of the latest tournament grew 125% compa red to the 2014 Brazil World Cup, to 192.7 million people, according to local broadcasting rights holder Sony Pictures Networks India and other sources. Viewership of the Brazil tournament, in turn, rose 91% compared to the 2010 South Africa World Cup.

It is no longer uncommon to find schools that offer soccer as an after-school activity rather than cricket. In Gurugram, the popular team Paris Saint-Germain -- home of budding French superstar striker Kylian Mbappe -- is in its fourth year running a youth soccer academy. The school now has three locations.

Followed by adults and children alike, across slums and farming districts, the overwhelming popularity of cricket in India dates back to the country's time as a British colony. Soccer's rise has been helped along by the launch of a pro league in 2014, along with India's increased exposure to international trends since its markets opened in the 1990s.

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Beyond soccer, India's cinema landscape is seeing a shift. "On Fridays, when we usually release new films, we sometimes have two Hollywood movies, while we only have one from Bollywood," said Kishan Karki, 28, a sales manager at a cinema complex in New Delhi. "I don't think that ever happened a few years ago."

According to a KPMG report issued last year, the Indian cinema business has been sluggish, with box office takings for Bollywood films declining since 201 3. On the other hand, business has grown for Hollywood films: Ticket sales in 2016 increased 10% from the year before.

It may be premature to say that international entertainment is sweeping the country. "In rural areas, all the people still watch only Bollywood [films]," Karki said.

Even so, for foreign companies looking to cash in on India's large urban populations, the trends are welcome signs.

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Source: Google News Hollywood

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