Box Office Report: Tubelight Flickers

I am so proud of that headline!  SO PROUD!!!!!  Everyone, stand back and admire it………..Okay, moving on, box office!

I used to have to give this whole explanation for what the numbers mean and why I report them they way I do and so on and so on.  But now I can just link you back to that very very long post I wrote for Hindi Film 101 going into every single aspect of box office performance and why it is like it is.  Here you go, read this!  Then come back here for this week’s report. (as always, numbers come from Rentrack by way of BollywoodHungama)

 

Now, the big news this week is “DJ Beats Tubelight!  Hindi Cinema is Dead!  Long Live Telugu Films!!!!!”  But, that’s actually not true at all.  It’s not “DJ Beats Tubelight“, it’s “Tubelight Bad; DJ Average; Correlation is Not Causation”.

 

DJ did $4,596 per screen in the US.  Which is on the good side of average for opening weekend for a major Telugu film.  Telugu is big business in America, big openings are standard, both in number of screens and amount per screen.  Plus, with the doubled ticket prices for a big opening, the per screens can quickly go above what is “normal” for a Hindi film, without being a really really huge hit.

Image result for dj telugu poster

(Or maybe people were just excited to see Allu with semi-normal hair)

Tubelight, on the other hand, did $2,214 per screen.  Which is decent for something like Hindi Medium, means people showed up and bought tickets, but really abysmal for a Khan release.

 

However, and this is where things get fascinating, DJ was only one slot higher than Tubelight in the general American box office, 14 to 15.  Which means, first, that you can reach 15th at the American box office and almost the top of the Hindi-films-in-America box office, just by playing with the screen count.  Tubelight had over 300 screens in America, which is around the limit for the number of screens one Hindi film can get here.  Not the limit for total number of screens that might go to Indian film, but the limit for one film.  If I own a movie theater, and Bajirao and Dilwale are coming out at the same time, I will give one screen to each, they each get around 300 screens, total number of screens playing the big Hindi release in America is 600.  If I own a movie theater and Tubelight is the only film coming out, it just gets one screen.  I’m not going to risk splitting the audience for some funky Indian film between two showtimes.

So, if you have a film with a star in it, and a holiday release date, and get 300 screens, you WILL make it to the top 20 of the American box office.  The actual quality of the film DOES NOT MATTER.  You could have 3 hours of Salman sleeping, Warhol style, and you would still make $700,000.  That’s just how the market works.  The problem is, at that point, you are also no longer making a profit.  Because you had to pay for those 300 screens (either in percentage of tickets or a flat fee depending on your contract), for that star, and you had to fight tooth and nail to keep that holiday release date.

 

DJ is kind of similar.  If you have a big Telugu star, and 150-200 screens (the amount that Telugu films top out at in America), then you have a 80% certainty of making a profit.  The difference is, for whatever reason, the Telugu audience seems a little less susceptible to marketing, and a little more aware of word of mouth.  Maybe it’s because the tickets are higher?  If you are spending $20-$40 for opening night, you are going to make darn sure this film is worth it.  If DJ was bad at the level that Tubelight was bad, I don’t think it would have made as much money.  I think people would have known to stay away.  But then, on the other hand, if DJ was good, that box office would go even higher.  I have seen as much as $8,000 per screen for a really good Telugu film, which is almost unheard of for Hindi films, and unimaginable for American films.

 

So, what I am saying is, DJ is a decent film with a big star and a biggish release.  It made about what I would expect for that.  Tubelight is a terrible film with a really big star and a really big holiday release.  It made the bare minimum I would expect for that.  DJ didn’t “take” Tubelight‘s audience, it made the same amount it would have made anyway, it is just reaping the reward in false publicity with everyone making the comparisons.

 

And you can see that if you look at the rest of the global figures.  Everywhere else, Tubelight was the top of the list.  But still terrible.  Well, terrible for a Khan film.  $5,600 per screen in Canada (remember, very expensive movie tickets up there!), $1,697 in the UK (cheap movie tickets there, and also the most tuned in to the Indian market, probably got early bad buzz), around the same in Australia and New Zealand.  Over $10,000 per screen in Malaysia, but that’s on just 5 screens, which probably drove up the demand.

 

The real problem with these figures isn’t “Salman Khan’s career is over, woe is us!” (it’s not, I’ll get into that in a second), but “Our quarterly profit is shot, woe is us!”  If you were in America and didn’t get DJ, or if you were anywhere else in the world (except Malaysia) and only had Tubelight available to you, it means you just wasted Eid.  No one wants to see Tubelight, and you aren’t playing anything else at your theater because you gave it all your screens, so now no one is buying tickets from you at all.  And this is a global problem now, since it is a Salman release and an Eid release.  All over the world, theaters were counting on a big big profit for the holiday weekend to make up for their losses over Ramadan.  And NOTHING.

This is the problem with wide releases.  The thinking is “everyone will want to see Tubelight, every theater that carries it will make a huge profit, let’s spread that profit around to as many theaters as possible”.  But the downside is, now every theater in the world is operating at a loss.  The makers of DJ, and the theaters that agreed to screen it, are probably thanking their lucky stars that they took the risk because they are the only ones making a profit.

Image result for ghajini

(Thank you Ghajini, for bringing us in to this new, sucky, era.)

This is a problem that requires a change in how all 3 parts of the industry work, producers and distributors and theaters.  If the producers were willing to make more films and release them together, and distributors were willing to cut down on screen counts, and theaters were willing to pass up the new Salman movie and try the new low budget comedy, then we wouldn’t have this “we all rise or sink together” problem.  Picture if, say, Hindi Medium had released last week.  And distributors for Tubelight had cut the screen count in half so Hindi Medium was on 150 screens.  And the theater owners had been willing to take a risk and pass on Tubelight and try Hindi Medium.  Well, half the theaters in America would have made a profit instead of a loss.  And so would half the distributors.  And the filmmakers would have gotten some attention for their little gem of a film, and be inspired to make something a little off-beat like that again.

DJ is only part of the story, this is why regional films in general are challenging Hindi.  Because there aren’t enough Hindi films.  If you don’t want to see this week’s big release, you end up in a regional movie.  Because there is no other Hindi option.

 

Oh, and I promised to tell you why this doesn’t actually mean anything for Salman’s stardom in particular!  Opening day/week in India is holding steady at an acceptable level for a Khan, around 20 crore opening night.  It even went up on Monday once it finally was Eid.  Those early figures, that’s why you pay for a Star.  That’s the power of name recognition, and his devoted fans who come first day/first show no matter what.  Doesn’t matter what happens in the second week, when word of mouth starts spreading about the film, then the failure is on the director and the film itself, not the star.

Image result for tubelight celebration india

(See, he’s still got these guys in his corner.  He’s fine)

In this case, it is sort of on the star, since Salman is the one who produced it, so he take the blame for making stupid decisions.  But his over all star power, that’s still intact.

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15 thoughts on “Box Office Report: Tubelight Flickers

  1. In Kerala it was one of the worst box office collection during eid. The 3 malayalam movies released where all avg or below avg and bombed at box office. Tube light was really bad and no one wanted to watch that. The two tamil movie released were also bad, one of them was worse than tubelight. Telugu film DJ got postponed for dubbing and now releases on July 7th. The two big Malayalam Realeses (Tiyaan and Dhrisaakshyam Thondimuthalum) got postponed, one of them releases this weekend and other hasnt announced a date because of Censor board issue.

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    • Shoot, it hadn’t occurred to me that the Malayalam delay also means you are missing the holiday release date profits from them. Hopefully it will all turn out better somehow, maybe the week they come out will be really good movie watching weather (I don’t know what that is in Kerala, in my city it is overcast but not raining or super hot but sunny, so people are willing to leave the house but don’t want to be outside)

      On Wed, Jun 28, 2017 at 1:04 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. Finally someone that understands the Telugu overseas box office, especially in comparison with Hindi film! It was kind of frustrating to see all the DJ beats Tubelight articles when that wasn’t exactly true. You were right in saying that DJ wasn’t doing as well as it could be doing; the word of mouth about the movie in my family friends circle isn’t that great. I think I am the only person who talked up the movie after watching it in the entire group. But overall, it seems like DJ is doing pretty decently.

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    • Exactly! I hope the Telugu industry at least isn’t getting caught up in this. I would have for Allu’s next film to have an even bigger release, and then be declared a “flop” just because it doesn’t beat whatever the Hindi film is that comes out opposite it.

      I know the flipside is certainly true, lots and lots of record breaking Telugu films that don’t get the attention they deserve because they happen to open next to a strong Hindi film.

      On Wed, Jun 28, 2017 at 3:49 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • I think the people in the industry themselves know the difference between the perception and the reality. Either way, this is bringing the movie itself some publicity. Also DJ is doing a lot better in America than how Sarrainodu, Allu Arjun’s last release, did in the U.S. so I’m sure they are satisfied with that for now.

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        • And that one opened opposite no big Hindi releases at all (Fan flopped the week before, Baaghi came out the next week), which just proves again that the success or failure of a Hindi film is really unrelated to the success or failure of a Telugu film.

          On Wed, Jun 28, 2017 at 4:09 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  3. *admiring headline*

    You know I honestly didn’t expect a Salman Khan Eid release to be this badly received. For as long as I can remember, my cousins (mid-40s now) have watched every Salman release zealously. This is the first Salman movie they have skipped in like 25 years. And they had a 3-day weekend to watch the film after opening and they didn’t have to worry about tickets either because the theatres weren’t packed at all. AT ALL! These women have literally spent hours outside single screens in the 90s trying to get tickets in “black” just because a salman film was playing. I think the magic is gone. PS, they’re sharing Prabhas gossip and pictures in family groups now. I’m horrified at the possibility of sharing a celebrity crush with my weird cousins 😐

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, thanks to Bahubali, I now share a celebrity crush with my mother. That’s weird, right?

      And really interested in your cousins as a sample set! this is the first thing that makes me nervous about Salman’s star power. Like I said, so long as his opening weekend figures were strong, it seemed like it was just a bad film, not a loss of interest in Salman. But if he has lost your cousins, after 25 years, then he is losing his real power base.

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      • I must add that my cousins are the kinds that get emotionally invested in hindi soaps. Like actually emotionally invested in whether or not the protagonist shapeshifts into a naagin and her badla and the diya and the other crap. I secretly suspect their Salman crush was like a housewife fantasy. The most annoying of these cousins hit on my bodybuilder beau in front of me in a very awkward first meeting (I ran into her and jijaji at the theatre and we watched The Dirty Picture together!) I think Salman for this set is just about good old fashioned ogling. He’s their age so it’s not creepy that they’re ogling a new actor as old as their own kids. (in their heads. I don’t care what and who floats their boat!) And somehow saying oh Salman is amazing in the latest film doesn’t make their husbands jealous or get them judgement from their kitty friends. Prabhas (rather Bahubali) is the new Salman. I did laugh at Salman having mocked Prabhas about the movie earnings earlier in the year. Karma really is a bitch.

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        • Ooooh, that is I think the worst first meeting I have ever heard. The Dirty Picture? With family? I may never recover from my sympathetic embarrassment.

          It’s interesting how reaching a certain level of fame/maturity makes it suddenly “okay” for women to admit to a crush on someone. I was thinking, back when your cousins were teenagers/20s and first fell for Salman, their mothers were probably swooning over Dharmendra or Sunny, and that was “okay”. But if their mothers had started rushing the theaters to watch Salman Khan movies, that wouldn’t have been acceptable.

          Meanwhile, of course, men can move from Sridevi to Madhuri to Aishwarya to Priyanka to Deepika to Alia and no one finds it odd! Okay, maybe not Alia, But the rest of them.

          Or am I wrong? I’m not exactly on the ground listening to Indian men talk about their latest crush.

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          • Indian men of previous generations don’t talk of their crushes. The last admitted crush my dad had was Deepti Naval. My mother has openly ogled at John Abraham in the opening scene of Dostana while I was next to her and I had to actually pick her jaw up from the floor there. It was hilarious. I’ve never heard any of my uncles talk about female celebrities with us. My jijus and older male cousins are shy too. I guess this is what I meant when I said there are no films for middle aged people featuring middle aged actors in normal settings. If the films aren’t talking about this group’s sexuality it must mean this group isn’t really talking about the topics too openly anyway.

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          • Now I kind of want to watch Mast again, for the discussion of Rekha and Sridevi crushes before Urmila.

            On Thu, Jun 29, 2017 at 8:09 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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            Liked by 1 person

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