Box Office Report: Rustom Wins!!! By A LOT (Per Screen)

This is FASCINATING!  The screen numbers are all upside down!  Mohenjo Daro had way way more screens, and yet Rustom still made more money!  Very impressive, Akshay Kumar!

According to BollywoodHungama, in America, Mohenjo had almost exactly twice as many screens as Rustom, 212 to 111.  And yet Rustom made more money.  Only a little more money, it was close, but still more money.  More important than the total, Rustom made $5,637 per screen while Mohenjo made a dismal $2,924 per screen.  Not bad for a second week film, or an Emraan Hashmi release, but a big budget Hrithik film on opening weekend is an embarrassment if it makes less than $4,000.

You know how I keep talking about the tipping point in screen counts?  When the market is saturated and theaters start losing money?  This is it.  This is the saturation point.  There are enough people in America to solidly fill 111 theaters to see an Akshay Kumar movie.  There are about the same number of people in America who are interested in seeing a Hrithik Roshan movie, but when you spread them out among twice as many theaters, it looks a lot less impressive.

The same story is true all over the world.  Mohenjo had more screens, Rustom made more money.  The only country where Mohenjo managed to win was the UK, where it opened on a stunning 145 screens to Rustom‘s 32.  Of course, the per screen average was still weighted far in the direction of Rustom.  The only countries where Rustom got more screens were New Zealand and Australia, where apparently Akshay has quite the little fan following, considering his last few films have done spectacular down there.  So a good place to send extra prints.  I’m guessing the same thinking went into extra Mohenjo prints in the UK, following up on Ashutosh’s Lagaan and Jodha-Akbar, which were huge hits there, thinking they would have an audience waiting for them.


To me, this is once again a sign that India is still a star driven film industry.  Not like the audience will blindly buy tickets because the star they like is in the film (if that were true, this would be a tie, I am pretty sure Hrithik and Akshay have about the same number of fans), but that the stars have a better judgement and ability to create good films than any director or producer.  Akshay was involved in Rustom start to finish, all the way up to coordinating the twitter promotions.  Hrithik is a director’s actor, he trusts his director’s vision for a film and gives himself entirely into his hands.  Which can lead to some great performances as an actor, but it also means his films lose that “star” input, the comments about how best to promote it and utilize his stardom.


13 thoughts on “Box Office Report: Rustom Wins!!! By A LOT (Per Screen)

  1. I think Hrithik has way more fans than Akshay, though that might change now. I think the ratio in the U.S. re number of screens accurately reflected the perceived size of fandoms for each actor. But Rustom happens to be a much better product. I think this is also why there is a 2:1 disparity in the opening day and weekend numbers as well.

    I agree that India is mainly a star-driven industry, in the sense you used it — i.e., the branding of a film depends on its male star. However, there are exceptions, with some directors and production houses, not to mention music directors, also creating a brand that audiences rely on. I saw Bahubali because all I knew about it was that it was directed by S. S. Rajamouli. Similarly people used to watch films because they were produced by YRF or Dharma. That sheen has worn off a little now, as both houses have started diversifying the subject matter of their films.

    We have that in the U.S., too. However much the auteur theory is promoted, the main selling point of most films is either the comic book it’s based on, the animation that produced it (Pixar, Dreamworks, etc.), the studio (Disney), or the stars (George Clooney, Meryl Streep). I seldom hear any of my friends say they are going to such and such a movie because of its director, and these are active filmophiles.


    • I was out of town this weekend (stupid family reunion!), so I’ve only been able to see Rustom so far, so I can’t speak to their respective quality. Although I know the reviews were generally better for Rustom.

      It’s interesting how the America and India ended up with different “auteurs”. Both of them reacted to the break up of their studio system by clinging to the idea that one person could encompass everything in themselves. But when India lost its studio system in the post-war era, they quickly landed on stars as the single defining feature of a film, while America responded to the death of the studios in the 60s-70s by latching on to directors.

      One thing that I’ve started hearing in the American industry press is how the studios are still relying on directors in a way that doesn’t really work any more. For those big tentpole movies, like the comic book films, they will pick out some young promising director and give him close to full creative control over the product. Sometimes this works out (JJ Abrams and the first Star Trek) and sometimes it doesn’t (the second Star Trek). But there is still this idea of the director as the “Great Man” and everything should be given over to his vision (there is also all that crazy gender dynamic to this, so it HAS to be a “Great Man”, not a “Great Woman”).

      I talk a little in an earlier post about the failure of Fitoor about the flaws of this theory. In America, there is a lack of a real apprenticeship system for directors. They go from funding their first movie on a showstring and showing it at a festival like Sundance or SXSW straight to being handed a multi-million dollar production (Unlike, say, James Cameron who put in years working on Roger Corman sets before making his first movie). That’s what happened with Josh Trank and The Fantastic Four. He had made two movies before, including one clever take on the superhero film, but they were both tiny shoestring productions. And then he was handed this major work and expected to turn out a perfect profitable product. And, I think, that is the same thing that happened with Fitoor in particular, the director was given full creative control and he just didn’t have the experience for that.


  2. I saw Mohenjo Daro yesterday. it was definitely playing on many more screens in the Washingon, DC area. The closest Rustom screening is over an hour from me by metro/bus. And for what it’s worth, I wanted to see Mohenjo for the A.R. Rahman music, and the costumes (I used to teach history of fashion).


    • I was going to ask you how accurate the costumes were, but how would anyone possibly know that? Unless I’m wrong, do people know that? Is there any information about clothing from 2000 BCE? And if so, were they even close?


      • There is some information, but they had to make up a lot using their imagination and what spotty info there was. Generally, the effect was pretty credible. Except for the two main characters’ hair and make-up, of course. But that’s usually an issue in western period costume films, too. I especially enjoyed the interpretation of the “foreign” looks like the Sumerians.


          • Color is always the biggest challenge, since so much of our information comes from sculpture, not painting or extant garments. (Which is explains why neoclassical clothing in ca 1800 Europe was usually white, like marble statues.)


          • I think about that sometimes with period movies, how much information they have about clothing colors during the “black and white” era. And if they all look too bright to me, just because I’m not used to seeing those cuts in color.


      • One of the main objections raised about the clothing in the trailer was that they definitely didn’t have stitched clothing in the Mohenjadaro days (you can tell from sculptures), and everyone, but Hrithik especially, were wearing designer stitched duds. 🙂


        • I’d have to look into that more. They have found needles dating to the 5th millennium BCE from the Indus Valley Civilization, so someone was sewing something at least 2000 years earlier. (More likely skins than cloth, though). I recall reading that in Asoka, Shah Rukh Khan balked at going shirtless for the entire film so they came up with those weird vests and ponchos. Costume is never 100% accurate, and costume historians and designers like to argue about how re-create clothing based on early depictions.


  3. Pingback: Mohenjo Daro Review (No Spoilers): 3 Movies Shoved Together, But 3 really Good Movies! | dontcallitbollywood

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