Happy 24 hours to Baahubali 2! 24 hours worldwide, by the way. Every showtime I can see around me starts at 2:30pm on the nose on Thursday, which is midnight Friday in India. This is what I love about film bringing us together, all over the world, at the exact same second, the lights will go down and people will watch Baahubali together.
I’m not going to be at that 2:30/midnight show, because I have a stupid job. But I am going to the 5:30 show, so I will still be synched up with all those people worldwide who couldn’t get tickets to the very first showing and are coming in exactly 3 hours later for the next show.
I can’t find reliable figures for the number of screens worldwide, in India it is supposedly 6000 to 8000 screens (Indian figures are always very hard to pin down). But in my area, it is playing on every screen, all 6 of them, at my all Indian theater. And I am going to see it at one of those theaters that almost never plays Indian films, I think I’ve only see Fan and Raees and Sultan there.
(This theater. They do regular big releases, and sometimes more arty stuff, and only Indian once in a blue moon)
What I find most interesting is that the big chain near me, AMC, still hasn’t posted any showtimes. It regularly plays every Indian release in at least one, sometimes more, theaters. Baahubali 2 is currently listed as “coming soon”, but now showtimes as of the last time I checked.
I wonder if this is because of pricing? That theater where I am seeing it, which is a regular old “white people” theater and usually sticks the Indian films in some backroom like they are ashamed of them, they are charging $25 a ticket. Which they have never done before!
But then, they’ve also never shown a southern release there before. Southern releases, at least in America, are different in a couple of ways from the Hindi releases. They only play in certain theaters. And they play there regularly. It’s not a “oh, why not set aside one screen once every few months” kind of thing like it is for the occasional Hindi film, it’s a regular every single Friday routine. To have a southern release that breaks out of that rut, that spreads to all kinds of theaters with the confidence that the audience will follow, that is remarkable.
The language part is remarkable as well. I mean, just having a release that is dubbed in Hindi is a big deal. The Tamil/Telugu simul-release, that doesn’t seem as unheard of from what I know. But to have all three languages available at mainstream theaters is crazy!
That means not just that they know the audience will be able to fill every screen in every language, but that they will care enough about the experience to want to make sure to see it in the language they understand best. Usually with the American audience, seeing a Tamil or Telugu release is about actually being able to understand and appreciate the subtlety of the language for about 50% of the audience. For the remaining 50%, it is about the particular industry, not the language itself or the language alone. I mean, knowing the actors, the directors, appreciating certain aspects of the industrial style.
But look at this! People want to see it in the language they best understand, so they can get every possible meaning out of it. It is the exact same movie, with the same industry specific actors and style and everything else, and yet the audience will presumably natural divide into their own language groups. Even me, I picked Tamil because of the showtime, but I would have preferred Hindi (because I could pay less attention to subtitles) or Telugu, so I could experience the performance in the language the actors/writers were most comfortable with.
And the final thing that I find amazing is the pricing! I didn’t know myself until a few years ago about the sliding pricing for southern films. For opening day, or opening week, or sometimes the first few weeks, the prices are double or triple what they are usually. That’s part of the experience, if you come opening night or opening week, you come ready for an experience, a sold-out theater, cheering crowds, sometimes special higher quality snacks available, and fancy dressed audience members. That’s why you pay the extra money, not just to see the film a few days early.
(Okay, it’s fun in America, but it’s not as fun as it is in India)
There’s no particular reason other film industries couldn’t use this same pricing. I’ve heard that it’s already standard for Khan films, for instance, to be priced a few dollars higher than other films. But this massive gap between opening day/week and the rest of the run, from what I understand, that is unique to southern films.
And now it is spreading into theaters that have never used this before! I honestly don’t even know if the cash registers are programmed for higher prices at these theaters. Back when I was working box office at a theater a few years ago, we just had 3 buttons, matinee rate, regular rate, and senior/student rate. We would have had to reprogram the whole system to allow for a sliding scale.
But Baahubali 2 might do it, it might be the film to get all these theaters to experience the wonders of that opening night fever, with the crazy crowds bringing a little bit of India to America. And what really gets me excited is that Baahubali 2 might be the film that brings that little bit of India to the American film industry altogether. Considering the number of screens, and the enormous prices, and the 2:30pm Thursday/midnight Friday India time opening which gives it a 3 day weekend, Baahubali 2 has a decent shot of breaking into the top 3 of the American box office. Which might FINALLY force the mainstream industry press to acknowledge that Indian films exist! They’ve been breaking into the top 10 of the American box office for the past 20 years, but that doesn’t stop them from being ignored. But to break into the top 3, people would have to talk about that, right?
Anyway, that’s how things look to me in Chicago. How about you? are you seeing the same patterns in your areas? Playing in theaters that don’t usually play southern films, playing in multiple languages in the same theater, and with super super expensive prices?