Well, this was a bad week! Overseas, that is. From what I am seeing, the Indian figures are still good. But overseas, we did not like things. Oh, and I’m trying something new, youtube video about all this is embedded in the post, instead of squeezing two posts out of it.
So, Judwaa 2! How did it do? Weirdly, it did the opposite of Jab Harry Met Sejal. Good in India, terrible overseas. Although I guess it isn’t that strange because they are opposite movies. One of them is familiar and reassuring, the other is new and strange. One of them is “adult” in every meaning of the word, the other is childish.
The biggest difference, I think, is that Judwaa was promoted as exactly what it was. It’s a remake of a popular film, it will have the songs and the tone and the plot that everyone is familiar with. You know exactly what you are getting.
So how did this “you know exactly what you are getting” play out in overseas box office? Well, in America, we knew what we were getting and we did not want it. Only $2,619 per screen. On 192 screens. That’s 40 screens more than Badrinath released on. But a third less per screen profit, Badrinath made $4,700 per screen. And it did as badly in the UK as it did in the US.
Meanwhile, in India (according to reports), it is doing very well. It is also doing very well (in the $6,000 per screen range) in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. They knew what they were getting and wanted it, but the UK and the US did not.
So, what can we learn from this? I guess just that the global market continues to be bifurcated, something that has been coming up with greater and greater frequency. But, is that a problem? Based on this week, YES!!! It is a problem! It’s not that the UK and the US preferred something else to Judwaa 2, it’s that they just didn’t go to the movies this week. Bareilly Ki Barfi and Shubh Mangal Saavdhan continue to chug along happily with their tiny solid per screen profits, but there was no big big per screen hit, in any language, in the US or the UK. Which means a lot of theaters are losing a lot of money, and so are distributors and everyone else. Even if the overall global figures are good.
Speaking of other languages, Spyder!!!! Which was NOT reported on in Bollywoodhungama for some reason, so I had to go to other less reliable sources and only have a general idea instead of specifics. But generally, very very bad in a very very remarkable way. It opened at a record high. And then experienced a record fall, 95% in one day.
Spyder, like Jab Harry Met Sejal, was not promoted as what it was. There was more of action scenes and fun songs than deep thoughtful consideration of humanity versus technology. And it also suffered a bit from the expectations it can’t possibly live up to. Like a Shahrukh Khan romance, a Mahesh Babu action film is an event, has the weight of history on it. It would be almost impossible to live up to that.
So, why try? And they didn’t, really, both films didn’t. Spyder is the intellectual challenging interesting version of a Mahesh Babu action film, just like Jab Harry Met Sejal is the intellectual mature version of a Shahrukh Khan romance.
But the problem is, they still lied to the audience that it would be that, it would be just what you loved before but new and more so. And it works opening day. You drive in the opening day box office and make a profit. But there is a turn the next day, an inevitable turn. As people realize it isn’t the film they wanted after all. Jab Harry Met Sejal suffered from the angry online reviews and backlash, Spyder (so far as I can tell) is suffering mostly from straight up box office.
There’s another problem with this, a purely financial planning problem. The idea is, you promote like crazy, lie to the audience to trick them in the door, and you get a huge opening weekend. Theaters and distributors and so on aren’t set up any more for long running films, so you need to make as much money as possible in the first couple of weeks before you are out of theaters. And it perpetuates itself, in order to make as much money as possible you release on as many screens as possible. And then two weeks later the next film coming out does the same thing, which means your movie is kicked out to make space for it.
Spyder is historic because it shows the end of this pattern. Promos, wide release, high ticket prices, even the loyal fans of a big star who are all told they must prove their love by first day first show tickets, everything coordinated to drive up opening day. And it worked, the first day was historically good.
But that was all they got, that first day. They did everything possible to drive up the first day, and people listened, they went first day. And that was it. They swept the entire audience for the film in one day. And now they are stuck with a movie that will be in theaters for weeks with no one else coming to see it.