We have no reached the point where if a new big Khan release DOESN’T break all previous records, it is considered a flop. I say “big”, because I’m not talking about your Jai Hos, your Fans, or your Talaashes. Just the ones with the major studio backing, thousands of prints made, huge international release, and family friendly crowd-pleasing plots. Of which Sultan is certainly one, so its box office success was kind of taken as a given.
The only part of the Sultan release that is NOT a record was opening day receipts. They landed at 36 crore, while 44 crore (Happy New Year) is the number to beat. It didn’t even beat Salman’s previous record, 40 crore (Prem Ratan Dhan Payo). I would guess the opening day was probably a sacrifice to the midweek holiday. I know, for myself, I had a hard time getting people to go with me to a show on a Wednesday. If your office isn’t closed for Eid, or if you were celebrating on Thursday, a Wednesday show was probably something of a reach. 36 crore is more than respectable for a midweek opening day.
However, due to the midweek opening and 5 day weekend effect, the assumption was not just that Sultan would break all opening weekend records, but that it would come close to breaking over all collection records in its first weekend alone. Which is in fact the case. It has already broken the opening weekend record, beating Prem Ratan Dhan Payo‘s opening weekend 180.36 crore to 129.77 crore. Which, by the way, also means it has already doubled its investment, since Yash Raj is reported to have spent 70 crore on production and 20 crore on promotion and prints, for a total of 90 crore expense against a 180 crore return in the first weekend alone.
By the end of business today, it is expected to scream past Krrish 3 to enter the top ten of all time box office collections before its first week is even out. Unless there is a massive drop off in the next few weeks (unlikely since nothing else big is coming out), it is well on track to at least beat Salman’s own Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Prem Ratan Dhan Payo to enter the top 3 all time collections, if not also knocking out PK and taking the top spot.
Most of that is India business, how did it do overseas? I mentioned in my review how very Muslim-friendly the film is, with green being the dominant color, two Muslim main characters, a Muslim wedding scene included, and so on. And, of course, the Eid release date. This paid off in terms of box office, the largest overseas market was the UAE with a take of 25.7 crore as of day 3 (total weekend figures not available yet). It also broke records in Pakistan, making 16.6 crore on its first weekend.
For the countries where overseas figures are available, it is doing just as well as Khan films always do. In America, on 283 screens, it made $6,842 per screen. Which is slightly worse, per screen, than Airlift opening weekend or Neerja opening weekend, both of them on half as many screens. But it is slightly better than Dilwale opening weekend per screen. As always, the screen counts are that tricky balance of making it scarce enough to insure sold out shows, but making it available enough that you get the optimum ticket rates. Around $7,000 seems to be the sweet spot that no one can surpass, and Sultan hit it almost bang on, so 283 screens for the American market must have been right about perfect (15 screens more than Dilwale, by the way).
It hit the top box office with around $15,000 per screen in Canada (ticket prices are higher there all around, so the per screen is usually about double America). What’s really interesting is that it beat in box office and screen count the Punjabi release. Which isn’t that surprising since the last big release was Sardaarji 2 three weeks ago. But what is a little surprising was also no new release coming out this weekend, or last weekend, to compete. That was true in Malaysia too, a usually Tamil market, but there was no big Tamil release this week (although there was a new Tamil film in America, which makes me wonder if the releases were staggered). This brings up the idea that part of Sultan‘s huge market share is due to fear. That is, no other competitors wanted to release near to it, not just in the Hindi market but in the regional ones as well. Australia, New Zealand, and Germany don’t even list another Indian film at all this week, it is all Sultan (again, just according to figures available, there could be a less official theater somewhere showing Udta Punjab and not sending their records into rentrak).
By the way, just from my personal observations having seen it twice now in theaters, it is doing well with all 3 of my personal theory as to the audience groups a film needs to be a major hit:
- The regular opening night crowd who want something they can rewatch over and over again.
- The folks who want to see actual good movies, who wait to read reviews or hear from friends.
- The random people who feel like taking their family to see whatever movie is available and easiest.
I’m definitely group 1, and I enjoyed it more on my re-watch than on my first watch, have already seen it twice, and will probably go back a 3rd and 4th time at some point before it leaves theaters.
The people I’ve brought to see it with me who are more of the group 2 also enjoyed it, and I am comfortable recommending it to others in that group as an all round enjoyable film.
And both shows I’ve been to included people who felt more like just folks that are interested in seeing whatever happens to be playing, and picked Sultan because it was easily available. Big family groups looking for a family activity, and (at the more art and less desi theater I saw it at the 2nd time), people who just show up for every international release whether it is French, Iranian, or Indian.