I already put up a detailed post about how Neerja in particular is doing (short answer: Spectacularly! Long answer: Spectacularly considering the complete lack of faith in it shown by distributors), but what about the non-Neerja films? How are they doing overseas?
Tere Bin Laden: Dead or Alive: Remember how I had to keep checking my figures for Neerja opening weekend because I couldn’t believe a $7,000 per screen average in the US? Well, this is the opposite of that. Around $250 per screen (by the way, when I saw it opening night, the only people in the theater were me, my friend, and three young guys who came in late. All 5 of us really loved the movie, though!). Which is too bad, because it is a really really funny movie. But I can also see how it would struggle to find an audience. It’s kind of too black comedy and taboo breaking for the sentimental diaspora audience. It feels more like Get Shorty than Golmaal Returns. But it is still an Indian release, so the general public isn’t going to watch it. Which might be why it is doing the best in England. I mean, still not great, but respectable. Everyone time I look at global figures, England stands out as the place with the largest and most varied diaspora population. Not just the respectable educated types, but a cross-section. And a wide enough cross-section that a variety of films can do well, even a black comedy that punctures the sentimental view of India.
Fitoor: Actually doing better per screen than Tere Bin Laden 2! So, $500 per screen instead of $250. On only 5 screens. By the way, I now have a personal grudge against Fitoor. One of the mainstream theaters near me that usually shows Indian releases was playing it for two weeks, I’m guess they must have had to commit to two weeks when they got the print, because I am sure the box office couldn’t justify holding it over. And since it left, they haven’t been playing anything. So, I think Fitoor may have single-handedly turned them off Indian films, which makes my life considerably more difficult. Thanks a lot, Fitoor! Now I have to drive an extra half hour to see a movie!
Kshanam, Krishna Gaadi Veera Prema Gadha, Channo Kamli Yaar Di, and Action Hero Biju: All of these films did better both in box office totals and per screen than Fitoor and Tere Bin Laden 2, across all markets where they are playing. Although still not nearly as well as Neerja (except for in Canada, where apparently the Punjabi market is paramount).
So, what this means is that the regional market is a serious competitor overseas, where Hindi has gotten comfortable and used to dominating. Which means the Hindi industry needs to up their game and make more movies like Neerja, big wide appeal blockbusters with the kind of quality and universality that really sets the Hindi industry apart. And fewer movies like Fitoor and Tere Bin Laden. That is, movies which are almost indistinguishable from a non-Indian release. There is that sweet spot of universal but still unique, that’s what they need to hit.