I’m gonna try to be good and get back on the Box Office report wagon. Because it really doesn’t mean anything unless you do it every week so you have context. Even if there isn’t that much of a story this week.
Remember how I got all “mad” two weeks ago because of box office reports that DJ was “winning” over Tubelight? Because DJ actually was doing exactly what is normal for a semi-major Telugu release only no one pays attention to Telugu box office so they didn’t realize it? Well, this week there actually IS a Telugu story going on, and it isn’t mentioned.
Mom, with a Rahman soundtrack, decent cast, big promotional campaign, released on only 78 screens in America. And only made $2,808 per screen. Part of this, of course, is that it is a female lead film. And distributors never have faith in female lead films.
But that doesn’t mean the audience won’t. Pink, Neerja, they did phenomenal business per screen, they just weren’t on enough screens. I’m not seeing that here. Although, it is also the first week. Female lead films generally build based on word of mouth. Because they don’t have that fanatical fanbase that male lead films do to drive opening weekend.
But the bigger picture is that there was a decently large Hindi film coming out. And a Telugu film without one of the major stars. And the Telugu film won hands down both per screen and in number of screens.
I love Nani, mostly thanks to how well he did playing a fly. And then I have to remind myself that he wasn’t actually playing a fly, the fly wasn’t real, the fly was a computer. And then I get all sad because I loved that fly and want to see him in more movies! However, I am aware that he is not a top top top star. So it is kind of a story that he got 144 screens for his movie Ninnu Kori, and made $4,300 per screen. It’s not record breaking by any means, but it is really good for a less-than-top star. Perhaps an indication that he is on his way up to a higher level.
(Love this movie, you should watch it)
But the bigger story is that he got 144 screens, that there were 144 screens available for a Telugu film this week. Part of this is still the Tubelight hangover, no big Hindi releases coming out because everyone thought Tubelight would still be strong right now. But there was Mom, right there. Theaters could have chosen to pick that up on a few more screens, but instead they went with the Telugu film as the better bet. And they were right!
Looking at the rest of the world, nothing terribly unexpected. Mom did well in Canada and the UK, where Tamil/Telugu films generally don’t play and there were no big Punjabi releases. Did really good in the UAE. I don’t know why, but it feels like a UAE kind of hit. Maybe because it is so upper middle class? Both in the characters and in the kind of restrained tone of the film? It’s a nice way to connect with your Indian heritage, without needing to relate to anything super specific. The same could be true of any other diaspora place, but it feels like the UAE is a little more connected/disconnected. In America, it’s switched over to straight up nostalgia for a fantasy version of India, instead of wanting the India you remember but slightly nicer,
The big story though is Australia! Australia for the past couple of years has been bucking the trends and picking Punjabi over Hindi at the box office. But I can’t remember a time when it picked Tamil/Telugu over Hindi! Until now, Ninnu Kori won hands down, $9,339 per screen. Which also meant it won the whole weekend, on only 7 screens to Mom‘s 23!
(Could just be because the plot from the trailer was so intriguing)
This is amazing! To have that much of an upside down box office, in preference for a language that hasn’t down well in this area before. And against a movie that should do well overseas. Mom essentially failed in Australia, and I don’t know why. It’s not that fantasy version of India they may want, no big songs and fields and stuff. But it’s a well made movie with big names and all that, why does Australia hate it?
Generally, this is showing the same shake up in the global office that we’ve been seeing all year. Hindi films that should be sure hits (Sridevi is a female star, but also an All India star, she should have put up stiff competition to the southern films) are varying market to market. And non-Hindi industries are competing with them all over the world. But all non-Hindi industries, Punjabi one week/place, Telugu the next, Tamil the third.
The audience is split, not along firm language/ethnicity lines, but along what they choose to want to watch on that particular weekend, and along nationality lines! An Indian-American is not the same as an Indian-Australian. Even if they both came from the same region in India a generation back.