Little bits of news have started to burble out, as they do during opening day of major releases. What did the public think, how are ticket sales, etc. etc. And, of course, are there massive violent protests or not?
First news item is an entirely selfish and personal one: ADHM is playing EVERYWHERE in my city. Okay, not as many places as Dilwale, that was hitting theaters that had never played Indian films before. But every single theater that occasionally shows Indian stuff is showing ADHM. And only two theaters are showing Shivaay.
This is basically to be expected, but also a little disappointing. I am sorry that Ajay and his distributors weren’t more ambitious for Shivaay, I thought the trailers looked great, and there was a real international quality for action scenes. And I thought that Baahubali had shown the international audience wasn’t only interested in rich people love stories, they could get behind action as well. So I’m sorry Ajay didn’t try to capitalize on all that and spread himself out a little more overseas.
And it’s also a little disappointing that Dharma is going so hard after the international audience (which might be why Ajay got so few screens, if Dharma tried to block him). It shows an acceptance that they have lost the local audience. I would be happier if they were in a few fewer screens overseas and a few more screens at home.
Not that so many screens here is hurting their bottom line! I just got a text from moviemavengal who is seeing the ADHM matinee at the theater near her, and she said it is mobbed, and the theater was definitely not prepared for this level of crowd. I would guess the combination of a holiday weekend, heavy promotions, and easy accessibility, is driving them all in.
For me personally, tragically, the easy accessibility of ADHM is why I am NOT seeing it tonight. I can either see Shivaay tonight and ADHM tomorrow afternoon. Or ADHM tonight and tomorrow afternoon (I have one friend who is DEMANDING a screening tomorrow afternoon no matter what), and then Shivaay not until next Friday. Shivaay only at one place, 45 minutes to an hour away, and the showtimes are just murder for a work night. But ADHM, no biggie, it’s 15 minutes away or half an hour or 45 minutes, and there is a show time starting every hour.
Of course, this is also because I am ferrying 4 other people out to the theater with me tonight. If it was just me, I would be doing a back to back showings of both movies and getting home at 3am. I suppose I could still do that, and just not tell anyone until we got to the theater. I’m the one with the car, I control their destiny!!! But that would be wrong.
(Like this, only I’m not as pretty as Dino Morea. And late at night instead of first thing in the morning)
That’s the American news, the Indian news is that both films opened well, so far ADHM seems to be doing slightly better than Shivaay. And, most importantly, the single-screen theaters are not obeying the COEAI ban! One owner pointed out that it was just an “advisory”, there is no way for the COEAI to actually enforce anything from their members. Best estimates have all but one or two theaters showing ADHM as scheduled.
Another article interviewed the owner of the Marathi Mandir (woot! DDLJ, 21 years and counting!). Here was his quote, which was pretty reasonable and straightforward:
We have given two shows to the film. Most of the single screens have started their advance booking so why should I suffer losses? The state government, along with Karan Johar and the MNS, had taken the decision to allow the film’s screening.
Yeah, that’s kind of all there is to it. ADHM is a guaranteed hit, in a year that’s been pretty bad for exhibitors. The state government is behind it, so no concerns about arrests or legal problems. The MNS are for it, so no concerns about vandalism. And Karan Johar is behind it, so showing it is going to get you in his good books. So, why not? What could the COAEI possibly do that is worse than suffering a massive loss of a big opening?
The release strategy in India is also no big surprise. Shivaay is going after the single-screen theaters and doing slightly better there than multiplexes, ADHM is the opposite. At the moment, ADHM seems to be winning both the box office and the critical stakes. But it’s close.
Not because both films are so good (unfortunately), but because they are almost equally bad. I’m not reading the full reviews (because SPOILERS!), but just skimming through the headlines, the consensus seems to be that Ajay and the action stuff is great in Shivaay, but the rest drags a little. And that Karan’s swoony camera work, and Ranbir’s acting, and the whole modern tone of it is great in ADHM, but the storyline is a little hackneyed and predictable.
I’ll be curious how this all plays out over the weekend. It’s a bit of a unique holiday weekend, with the holiday at the end of it. So there is a bigger audience push expected on Sunday than on Friday. Which also means the crowds will have time to have heard word of mouth and read reviews before they make their decision on what to see on Sunday. I could see it going either way, word of mouth suggesting that Shivaay is worth it for the visuals and ADHM is kind of a drag, or that Shivaay is bloated and ADHM is beautiful. But certainly the box office picture at the end of the weekend could look very very different than it does at the beginning.