Kind of an odd week global release wise. I don’t want to talk about the box office numbers yet, I want to start just by looking at screen count, because that is ALL OVER THE PLACE!!!
Jolly LLB 2: 166 screens in America, one of the biggest releases Akshay has ever had here. But only 37 screens in the UK. 22 screens in Australia, 24 screens in Canada, 13 in New Zealand-all of that is on the high end of average for an Akshay release in those countries.
What the heck is this? Why such a heavy weight to the US and so low in the UK, and then average elsewhere? Or, more generally, why such a variance country to country? Was there no global release strategy? Were the rights sold to different distributors market by market and they had differing opinions on how well the film would do? It’s produced by Fox Star, is there some kind of prejudice towards the American market there? If anything, it should be a prejudice towards the Australian market, right?
The Ghazi Attack: 86 screens in America. That’s on the high end for a non-Star release, but not unheard of. I think Neerja and Pink were around there. And that’s also split between 3 different languages (personally I saw it in Tamil. Because that’s the showtime that worked. The overdubbed the Urdu from the Pakistanis, it was weird). But then only 3 screens in Canada! Only 10 in the UK. But 19 in Australia. And then not playing at all in Malaysia and New Zealand?
I can kind of understand some of this. The Ghazi Attack, even if it was dubbed in Hindi, is really a Telugu film. Rana is the star, and Taapsee is the female lead, it was originally filmed in Telugu, etc. And the Telugu market is huge in America, much much bigger than anywhere else. Especially Canada, where it is mostly Punjabis. But only 10 in the UK? That’s really really low, for a movie that is more on the thoughtful and historical side of things, which usually means it does well in the UK. And no screens at all in Malaysia? For a southern release? Either Rentrack is missing theaters (highly possible), or it was censored.
Running Shaadi (my favorite!): 51 screens in the US. Which is on the high end for a film with no real stars. And, more dangerously, a film that had almost no promotion. I don’t watch the Indian TV channels (because cable is expensive, yaar!), but I do listen to Saavn and Gaana, and I go see the new movies almost every week. And most of all, I follow all the industry players on twitter. And I only saw a couple trailers, had no song promotions, saw no posters, and absolutely no one was tweeting about it. So 52 screens is a bit excessive. In Canada, 7 screens. Which is either too many or too few. It’s got a northern flavor to it, which means it usually does well in Canada. But on the other hand, again, no promotion at all. In the UK, 14 screens. Which is more than The Ghazi Attack. Why????? Australia, 8. New Zealand, 5. Again, a reasonable number because Northern films usually do well there. But on the other hand, no promotion at all! So maybe no screens at all?
So, that’s the distribution strategy for each film. The Ghazi Attack was swung hard over at the American market, but no where else. Jolly LLB 2, same thing, with a large-ish release in some other traditional Akshay markets, the UK and Canada and Australia, but nothing like in America. And Running Shaadi on the high end for a low budget no star release everywhere, again with a big focus on the American market. And how did this strategy work out? What do the per screen figures look like?
Let’s take Running Shaadi first. It did universally TERRIBLE!!!! Less than $200 per screen in America, which is just shocking. And equally bad every where else.That means 20 tickets sold per screen ALL WEEKEND!!! So, an average of 1.75 people at each show. What a disaster of a release this is! Like I said, no promotion at all. But combined with a big push for screens? Why? Either settle for a minimal screen count, or promote your freaking film! You can’t do one but not the other.
(Look! They even have a Bappi Lahiri song! What up, Reliance? Why didn’t you FREAKING PROMOTE THAT????)
The Ghazi Attack, they did the opposite! Massive promotional push, Karan was tweeting his little fingers off, I got all kinds of pop-up ads on websites, and then America is the only market where it gets a decent sized release? Really good per screen numbers here, by the way $4,500 per screen in the US. Which is disappointing for a big name release, but super good for a no names, no songs, dubbed release. Did really well in Australia too. But no where else. So I guess Karan knows what he is doing! Few screens in Canada, terrible per screen take in Canada. And the same everywhere else, if there are only a few screens, there were also only a few tickets sold. Okay Karan, I bow to the master.
Jolly LLB 2, kind of like Ghazi in terms of perfect release, only made a big mistake in America. 166 screens, only $1,600 per screen. Which is a little low for a second week. They would have been smarter to drop it down to half as many screens and make a solid $3,000 per screen. Wouldn’t be surprised if this is just a flaw of the size of the American market, and the release date. Speaking for the Chicago area, we have a good 12 screens set aside only for Indian releases. And another 12 that are available if the theaters don’t have anything else good to show. There’s no real big American or other Indian release this week, so Jolly LLB 2 was forced to fill a few more gaps than it really could. But Australia, the UK, New Zealand, even Malaysia, the per screen count is perfectly on point for week two.
(oh, and by the way, Raees is holding steady in week 4. On only a few screens everywhere around the world, but must have excellent word of mouth and repeat value, because people are still coming in for it)
So, what does this tell us? Well, two things:
- The global audience is becoming increasingly fragmented. Just as it is harder and harder to make an “all India” hit, so is it becoming harder to make a “all diaspora” hit.
- Distributors and producers are beginning to learn this and adapt to it. Not all of them (Running Shaadi obviously had no idea), but the smart ones are no longer looking at a global release in terms of stuffing as many screens as possible in as many countries as possible, but rather targeting certain areas.