Neerja Box Office: Quality is Recognized, Huge Growth Over Weekend

BollywoodHungama has the figures for the first 3 days, and they are really interesting.  Both inside and outside India.

After we watched it, my friend and I were discussing how it might do at the box office.  I should mention, we saw it Saturday afternoon, and our theater was well under half full.  Which isn’t great for opening weekend, but isn’t that bad (not like seeing Fitoor opening night in with half a dozen other people).  More importantly, we had to see that show, because it wasn’t playing anywhere else near us.  Which is unusual for Indian films.  We were wondering if the business would pick up over time as the quality of the film became better known, and also if the reason there was only one theater showing it near us, despite the quality, was because Fox Searchlight was going after a non-American international audience.

Based on the first box office figures, both assumptions are correct.  The word of mouth is great, apparently, because the Indian box office doubled between Friday and Sunday.  It’s not a star movie, Sonam Kapoor can’t open a film, and everyone loves Shabana, but no one is going to see a movie just for her.  They have been promoting it all long based on the story and Neerja, the real person.  That is what the film highlighted as well (in my summary, going up sometime in the next few days, you will see that for once I call the character by her name instead of by the name of the actor, because it is so much more Neerja and so little Sonam Kapoor).  A film like this means there won’t be that huge opening night audience, but as time goes on, and the good word of mouth and discussion of the real story starts up, more and more people will be coming in.  Just like for Airlift, except more so, because there is a weaker star and a stronger real life person at the center.

But what I find most interesting is that the overseas box office for America and the UAE is basically the same.  That’s what my friend and I were talking about, that it is a Fox Searchlight production, so you would think they would look for a big overseas audience.  But it isn’t made like a “cross-over” movie.  There’s none of that Slumdog Millionaire “oh, look at the colorful Indians!” stuff, or the Bride and Prejudice “let me hold your hand and explain Indian culture to you” stuff.  It is very straight-forward and fast moving and expects you to be able to pick up what is happening without a lot of explanations.

But, at the same time, it is very international in that there are no complex songs or big stars you are supposed to recognize, or a plot that deals with a bunch of little Indian specific side-stories.  So it is very well set-up to do business in countries that are just a little more similar to India than the US.  Places where arranged marriages and children living at home through adulthood and small apartments with water heaters that need to be turned on and all of those things aren’t completely unheard of.

And it looks like that’s how the box office is shaking out.  North America is fine, but about the same as the UAE, which means there must have been a ton of prints sent to the UAE and a huge proportion of people there who saw it.  The UK is doing pretty well too, reflecting their larger immigrant population, and again, meaning there must have been a larger number of prints per capita sent there than to America.

I’ll be interested to see if this trend continues, if the more detailed global reports end up showing a high per screen average in non-Indian non-American countries and if that stays consistent, or grows, over the next several days.

(of course, when I say “good box office”, that is grading on a curve.  Airlift was at 38 crore just counting the first Friday and Saturday business in India, Neerja is at 31 crore including all three weekend days.  But that is still very impressive for a biopic with a female lead.)


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