Oh dear. I liked it! But apparently, not many other people did. Even worse, Aditya seriously over-estimated the American screen count. Not good!
Box Office per screen numbers Baseline reminder:
$5,000 and up= Massive hit for a non-Star film, expected for a Khan release
$4,000 to $5,000= Good solid release for a major film (Akshay, Hrithik, Ranbir, Ajay, anything Yash Raj or Dharma), barely acceptable for a Khan release
$3,000 to $4,000= Good solid release for anything non major (Amitabh, Aditya Roy Kapoor, Varun Dhawan, etc.), a little embarrassing for a major film, career-ending for a Khan
$2,000 to $3,000=Not hilariously bad for anything non major, needs some major back-peddling and explanation for a major film, you might as well just crawl in a hole and die for a Khan.
$2,000 and down=Well, now it’s just funny!
So, if these are our measurements, how did Befikre do (as always, numbers from Rentrak from Bollywoodhungama)? First, can we all agree that Befikre fits in the Major But Not Yet a Khan category? Yash Raj release, so massive promotion push, plus Ranveer is on the way up, plus people were excited to see what Aditya did. So, we are looking for something between $3,000 to $5,000 per screen. $3,000 would be on the low side, but still probably enough to make a profit and everyone can walk away with their careers intact.
And (drumroll please) $1,432.63 per screen in America!!!! Ow ow ow ow ow ow! Oh, that is NOT GOOD!!!! And you can’t even say “well, it’s not the director’s fault, the movie was released wrong.” Because Adi is the producer too! And the distributor!
Maybe things look better in other countries? $3,394.3 per screen in Canada, where ticket prices are super high and the average is more like $4,500 per screen. Not Good!
How about the UK, where ticket prices are the lowest? $1,517 per screen. Okay, marginally better. If you allow for the different ticket rates in the UK, that’s almost just a little embarrassing, instead of “crawl into a hole and disappear” embarrassing.
Australia? Ticket prices about the same as the US? $3,936! Things are looking up! That’s kind of not terrible! But, on the other hand, only 28 screens, so the total is still tiny.
New Zealand? $2,731 on 20 screens. See, saturated the market again! Should have kept it low proportional to the population, like in Australia, and your per screens would be higher!
(Do you think everyone in New Zealand was partying at “Club Indiana” instead?)
How about Germany, that old stalwart for Yash Raj? About $800 per screen. This is in comparison with about $2,000 per screen for ADHM just a few months back. Sheesh! Not great!
Do you wonder why I always focus on the per screen numbers instead of the total? It’s because the total numbers are ultimately meaningless. I’ve worked at a movie theater (and taken a lot of production analysis type classes, but mostly this is coming from working at a movie theater), so I’ve seen how this works on the ground level.
If a movie is released on enough screens, you WILL sell tickets. Sure, it might just be people wandering in because it’s raining outside and wanting a ticket for whatever starts next, but they will still be buying tickets. You end up with these massive opening weekend numbers and box office totals, just because you have essentially created a monopoly on the market and the public has no other choice than to buy a ticket for your movie. So the total figures are fairly meaningless in gauging audience interest in the film, and therefore the importance of the message, power of the stars, etc. etc.
If we are talking Indian movies, there is another reason that it is really important to focus on per screen numbers, especially in Global figures. It is because India is trying to break into the market, and every week they need to convince the global theater owners that it is worth it to them to give up one screen in their multiplex to an Indian film. If I am running a 6 screen theater in an American suburb, I don’t care that Befikre made 1.85 million globally. I care about how many tickets I sold in my theater. That’s what is going to convince me to take a risk and run the next film out of India.
You know why I have to drive an hour to the theater and back every Friday if I want to see a new release? FREAKING FITOOR!!! There used to be a theater just 20 minutes away from me, in a suburban mall, that would show all the major releases. And then Fitoor came out, and it was soooooooooooooo bad per screen. And that was the last Indian movie they ever showed.
(Soooooo bad! Bad like the cheesy snow effects in this video)
What is really killer is that the “per screen” is the biggest selling point for these films to small theater owners. If you look at per screens for Hollywood films, if I am remembering right, I believe 3 Idiots in America beat The Hobbit. If I am a small theater owner and I take The Hobbit, I’ve got a certain amount of tickets guaranteed, just from the promotional campaign and the popularity of the other films in the series. But if I take a risk and take 3 Idiots, I could end up making more money, longer (3 Idiots ran for weeks with a really decent per screen every weekend, while The Hobbit dropped off pretty quick). Sure, overall, The Hobbit made way way more money. But the theater owners don’t care about overall, they care about their individual theater.
Longterm, the Indian film industry has to try to make every small theater owner happy. And sometimes that means releasing a movie on fewer screens so that the few who do take it, make a profit. And then the next time you have a release that really really needs to go wide, you’ve got the good faith to back it up. Now, if I am one of the 284 theaters in America that took a risk on Befikre, I am going to be a lot harder to convince when it is time to make a decision about Dangal.