Does that headline work? I debated it for quite a bit. I think it does. Anyway, Munna Michael isn’t even really the big news this week, because we all kind of knew it would flop, that’s not exactly “news”. No, the news is over in the Punjabi world! And a little bit Tamil and Telugu.
First, Tamil distributors! GET YOUR HEAD IN THE GAME!!!! Vikram-Vedha on only 40 screens in the US? That’s INSANE!!!!! And explains why my theater was so packed, if it was the only one playing it for miles and miles around. But, maybe they are planning some kind of slow roll out? It’s not even in Malaysia yet, or Canada (not that Canada is the greatest Tamil market, but Malaysia sure is!).
Although, maybe this was a wise choice, because it did very well but wasn’t exactly breaking records. $5,705.65 per screen in the US. Which would be super super good for a Hindi film (although still not breaking records, but this is what Jagga Jasoos should have been last week). But for a Tamil or Telugu film with their opening weekend prices, something like $6,500 is more the norm. $5,705.65 says they accurately gauged the interest of the audience in the number of screens available.
Fidaa, meanwhile, HUGE! $7,190.76 per screen. Now THAT’S a hit! Probably partially due to circumstances. Remember when people kept trying to draw parallels between the DJ box office and the Tubelight box office and I didn’t think they were related? I think this one might be a little related to what else is out there. Munna Michael of course is worthless. But besides no one wanting to buy tickets, no one wanted to screen it either. Only 60 screens, which is pretty small for the only Hindi release of the week. And, as I said, the distributors had no faith in poor Maddy, so not that many screens for him either. Which leaves Fidaa to take them all. 130 screens, a very large number for a non-major star Telugu release. That’s why it is on the top of the list, and #13 at the American box office over all. But the per screen, that’s something different. Especially since, without one of the top top stars, the ticket prices should be holding below $20 for it. For that, I think we have to say it’s the story. I’ve only seen the trailers (although I am hoping to find the time to see it in theaters eventually), but it is a romance with a lot of scenes, realistic scenes, in US suburbs. As we can see from the box office figures, the US market for Telugu films is big and is only going to get bigger. So I would guess the combination of a romance, the interest in Sai Pallavi, the familiar-while-not-super-powerful male actor, and the setting is what is driving the US box office so high. And Australia and New Zealand to a lesser degree.
And then there’s The Black Prince. Which I didn’t even know about until I saw it pop up on this list and had to look it up. Now this is INTERESTING! It’s a Punjabi/English production telling the story of the last king of the Sikhs who was taken as a small child and raised in England. Essentially, it’s Victoria and Abdul, but from the other side of things.
It didn’t do terribly well at all, about $1,500 per screen on 50 screens in the US, but it played in my town at the mainstream art theater, NOT at the all Indian theater. And in Canada, the UK, and Australia, it did amazing. So, it’s playing at the crossover arty theaters in America, and still doing well in the traditional Punjabi market of Canada and Australa, AND in the UK where Punjabi films don’t do well but historical films do.
From a industry perspective, this is fascinating, that a Punjabi producer is jumping into the crossover market, leapfrogging past the “you have to establish yourself as a language industry and then do a big crossover” step. Punjabi films as a whole are still fairly minor, in terms of international releases. It’s just last year that they started doing so well in Australia, before that it was Canada and that’s it. And now they are already taking on a co-production? Fascinating! I kind of want to see it now! But I want to see Maddy more, and according to these figures, he needs me more.
(How can I turn down this face?)
Oh, and Jagga Jasoos. Still on 85 screens in the US, probably because theaters were blackmailed into committing to two weeks, and only a little over $1,000 per screen. Which is a massive loss for those 85 theaters, that’s not just breaking even, that’s going into debt by giving up the screen space to it. This is the kind of thing that makes more and more theaters flock to Telugu and Tamil releases where at least you are almost guaranteed a really good opening weekend. Oh, and in the UK (typically closest to the Indian market), it’s down to less than half that, around $300 per screen. Which probably means the Indian figures are falling off second weekend too. Thank goodness Mubarakan is coming to save us all! Maybe. At least it looks slightly better than Munna Michael.