Well, this is the best week the box office globally has had in months. And it’s still not as good as, like, February of last year. Something is up, the numbers are just not coming back. (data as always comes from bollywoodhungama by way of Renttrak here)
At least, the American numbers. Those continue to be abysmal. But the Canadian and UK numbers are popping up again, finally.
In America, Golmaal Again had the best opening we’ve seen in ages. $791,000 total, which is very good. But per screen, only $2,985.73. Which is just okay, not that impressive.
Meanwhile, Secret Superstar did slightly better per screen, $3,428. Which is also just okay. And it did $627,446 total, which is very good, but not on that many screens.
The thing about a Diwali release is that it is your best chance at screens internationally. Unless it lines up with Thanksgiving, there is no major film release holiday happening in America, or anywhere else. No big Hollywood film is going to come out and compete for screens, theaters will be open to anything that will help them through the duldrums of October.
(This totally helped with my October duldrums!)
And this weekend showed that, all over the globe Secret Superstar and Golmaal got maximum screens, with Mersal from the Tamil industry coming up behind. In America, over 500 screens were showing Indian films this weekend. And the money just did not come the way it should have. Mersal too, only $4,000 per screen. Which is good, but for the biggest star in Tamil cinema on a holiday weekend, it should be closer to $6,000.
I keep saying “should be”, but maybe that’s the problem? Maybe it’s not “should be” any more, maybe I need to change my standards. My standards which were only in place as of last year. But this year, setting aside Bahubali, $4,000 is as high as it gets per screen, not $6,000 or $8,000 like it was just last year.
But then, on the other hand, the UK and Canada box office has started roaring back. In Canada, Golmaal Again made $9,000 per screen, Secret Superstar $6,000. In the UK, Secret Superstar and Golmaal both tanked (less than $2,000 per screen) but Mersal made an amazing $4,801 per screen. Shocking considering that Tamil films are not usually big in the UK market. And in Australia, it was all good, Mersal with a stunning $11,000 per screen, Golmaal with $8,000, and Secret Superstar with $4,300.
(I should really check this movie out. Maybe after work tomorrow)
So, what explanation could there be? Well, a couple of things. First, the American market is just sagging. Maybe it’s because movies in general are sagging here, Hollywood, Indian, and everything else. Streaming services are taking over markets, plus the whole country is in trauma right now, we have bigger things to do than go to movies.
Or maybe it’s a natural cycle effect. The UK and Canada are the oldest of the new age markets. That is, Indian films have always played overseas, but there was a new kind of global market that opened up in the 90s and the UK and Canada were the first big ones (as they were the first big immigration locations). Followed by America. UK and Canada were sagging a bit last year, with Canada in particular going more and more for the Punjabi films over Hindi. Now, they are beginning to come back.
Maybe America will follow their lead, maybe this is the audience adjusting itself, figuring out a new kind of taste in films. There are some hints in that direction, the surprise per screen hit of Bareilly Ki Barfi, the surprise Punjabi hits versus Telugu (the usual American market hits), the oddity of JHMS doing so well in the American market but not elsewhere. The UK and Canada audience seems to have figured it out, they are looking more non-Hindi now, and they are looking away from the “critically acclaimed” glossy type films, Bajirao and Dangal and now Secret Superstar.
Either explanation means it will be temporary. Our country will see better days and people will start caring about silly movies again, and the audience will figure out what it wants and the filmmakers will learn how to give it to them. So, being optimistic, that could mean that by Diwali of next year, the market has stabilized.
America is sagging, but UK and Australia are fascinating in their own way! First, most importantly, Mersal!!!! Tamil and Telugu films generally do great in the US, but nowhere else. Just immigration patterns and stuff. So either there is finally a critical mass of southern immigrants living in the UK and Australia, or it is that more and more audiences who previously were firmly Hindi are checking out the southern industries. If so, it’s something that is just starting in the past few months, and just in those couple locations. It could be the Bahubali effect, but if so it is awfully delayed, we didn’t see figures like this for any other southern films until just recently. It feels more like just an incremental change that is finally paying off. Satellite Indian TV channels and streaming services bringing southern films to the international market, southern distributors taking a risk and putting films out into new markets, probably a few more marketing and ad dollars spent on getting in that new audience, and now it is all starting to come together. Last year it was Punjabi films that were suddenly launched into newer markets, this year and in 2018, it looks like it will be Tamil’s turn.
(Mersal again! If I drove to work, I’d try to catch it tonight, but no chance without a car)
Oh, and finally, Secret Superstar is lagging behind Golmaal everywhere. Even in the UK where it technically made more money, it made less per screen. Which is not surprising, at least not to me. I’ve been feeling tired of Aamir’s social issue drama films, not just because of him, but because of all the imitators we’ve been getting. Toilet and Shubh Mangal Saavdhan and Padman coming up and I am just sick of it! It used to be new and exciting to have a film that combined a strong story with a social message, but now I am over it, and I suspect the audience as a whole is beginning to be over it. The wave has passed. And of course, those first films were sincere and risky and exciting, now we are getting into the by the numbers type that just feel like they were put together by a committee based on some algorithm.