India’s celebrated love affair with the big screen, combined with its deep availability of digital-ready talent, have propelled the country’s major movie hubs to the top of fDi’s latest assessment of the world’s most competitive locations for film and TV production. 

Chennai, the capital of Tamil cinema — also known as ‘Kollywood’ — shines as the world’s best location for film and TV production; followed by South Korea’s capital Seoul, home of the country’s burgeoning cinema industry; and Bangalore, India’s hub for movies in the Kannada language, according to the assessment by fDi Benchmark, across the world’s top 100 foreign direct investment (FDI) destinations for film and TV production. Bollywood’s capital, Mumbai, came in sixth, after London and Brazil’s Sao Paulo. Manila, Bogota, Warsaw and Beijing completed the top 10. 

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Chennai is considered India’s second-largest movie hub after Mumbai. The Tamil movie industry has a long tradition tracing back to the 1910s. Once home to some of the country’s most celebrated studios — local AVM Productions is the oldest surviving studio in India — Kollywood still produces around 200 movies per year, against the 300 produced by Bollywood. 

While a powerhouse in domestic movie productions, Chennai is also a major destination for post-production functions for national and some foreign companies. London-based visual effects (VFX) company DNEG features among the few foreign investors active in the city’s cinema industry after opening a visual effects studio in the city in 2017. 

“All the post-production for Indian movies used to happen here,” S.R. Prabhu, a local film producer, tells fDi. “Only after 2005, other movie hubs around the country started their own post-productions operations. Beyond DNEG, we have several companies doing VFX and post-production for Hollywood clients.” One of them is PhantomFX, which worked, among others, on the 2016 reboot of Ghostbusters. 

According to the fDi Benchmark assessment, Chennai outperformed any other city for the cost convenience of running local film and TV production, which partially offset a less outstanding quality assessment, where the city placed 39th out of the 100 cities considered.

If Chennai is a well-kept secret among foreign productions, second-placed Seoul’s fame as a major cinema hub is growing by the day. While the work of masters such as Park Chan-wook and Kim Ki-duk opened a door into Korean cinema in the 1990s, the success of movies such as Parasite, and TV shows such as Netflix’s Squid Game, have taken the prestige of the industry in South Korea to a whole new level.

The fDi study confirms the city’s strengths. Seoul, where Netflix leased two new production facilities in early 2021, is second only to London for the quality of its offering, combining a highly populated and digitally advanced industry ecosystem with world-class talent and infrastructure. Similarly, London’s sector is thriving due to the availability of top-notch infrastructure and talent, although the city’s overall assessment is hampered by high costs, with the outlay for setting up a production studio being 2.5-times that of Seoul. 

This article was first published in the December 2021/January 2022 edition of fDi Intelligence magazine. Read the online edition here.