Box Office: Golmaal Fails to Golmaal, Secret Superstar Fails to Shine, Mersal is a Miracle

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.


14 thoughts on “Box Office: Golmaal Fails to Golmaal, Secret Superstar Fails to Shine, Mersal is a Miracle

  1. If I’m not wrong, I think Tamil films usually do pretty well in the UK.

    Can you post that description of the international markets that Karan Johar mentioned once on your next box office post? It would be nice to take a look at that again.


  2. Mersal is only average I think. It got nation wide publicity when a leader from the ruling party criticized the movie for being anti government or something… It was in national news for 2 days. And hence the box office figures…


    • If that’s the case, it’s even more interesting. Because that would mean the UK and Australia audience are more tuned in to the Indian national news than the US audience.


      • Anyway, the BOSS had this to say – “Important topic addressed… Well done !!! Congratulations team #Mersal”
        And all the debate ended there!!!


  3. With secret superstar box office, here is the problem IMO. We were marketed a family friendly children’s inspirational movie – a Dangal 2.0 where the talent lies in singing instead of wrestling and the odds to overcome are DV instead of systemic and social discrimination against girls in sports.
    (Just watch the trailer again to confirm that this is so.)

    Instead we were given an extremely well drawn & richly detailed DV story, with the dangal 2.0 storyline as merely a plot device to drive us to a happy ending for the DV victims.

    So the word of mouth might drive the audience away, because this is *not* your family friendly children’s film. At my sold out screening, kids under 12 were crying and screaming every time the DV tension mounted. And a couple of times parents literally *ran* out of the theater with their young kids, so as to shield their kids from what they anticipated might happen next on-screen. If I have kids under 12 and want to spend an afternoon with them, I can think of many better and funner ways of doing that than making them watch what for them amounts to a psychological horror film. And this is especially true of the NRI audience and the international audience, which tends to be more sensitive to & protective of their kids’ emotional experience with media overall.

    Hopefully this movie won’t tank but instead will find its correct audience, ppl like me who really appreciated how intricate and well developed the DV story was. My eyes were streaming with tears for a solid 2 hours, and that never happens to me with any movie.


    • Good points all. I was glad to see that there were no children in my show, for exactly those reasons. Versus Golmaal which is perfectly designed for children’s sensibilities in every way, I was delighted to have kids sharing that one with me.

      And this is especially important for a Diwali release! Even in the American shows I go to, Diwali tends to have big family groups, clearly people visiting from out of town, looking for an activity they can all do together, grandma to grandchild. And I assume it is even more so in India. Versus other holidays like Christmas which might have less of a “big family reunion” vibe for the Indian audience.

      On Tue, Oct 24, 2017 at 3:06 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



  4. I do hope you get to see Mersal. I really enjoyed it and I’d love to get your take on it.

    So I have a theory about the overseas Tamil market that’s mostly just my guessing rather than based on any hard data or anything. I think countries with larger Sri Lankan Tamil populations (UK, France, Australia) tend to skew closer to the Indian market in terms of films that do well and countries with larger Indian-Tamil populations (US). I’ve noticed with other movies that when then do well in India, they tend to also do well in places like UK and Australia but the US market is still hit or miss.

    This year has been kind of bad for Tamil movies in general barring a few bright spots which I think reflects in the UK and Australian markets too. Mersal is doing crazy good business in India and we’re seeing that in the other markets too maybe.

    Do you know what the highest overall gross range for Tamil movies in the US is? I’m curious because I’ve seen articles that say Mersal is one of the higher overall grossers in the US for films with just a Tamil release (not including a Telugu dub) but clearly the per screen average is falling. So maybe the overall capacity for Tamil films hasn’t changed much but the wider releases are bringing the per screen average down? Or maybe I’m just being really optimistic.


    • I’ve only been closely tracking these figures for about a year and a half now, so I don’t have a really good sense before that. But what I remember seeing is super good figures for the major star releases, Tamil and Telugu. Kabali at least was way way better than this. $15,000 per screen average, and number 10 at the American box office in opening weekend. So I think it might be a bit of an illusion, if you are limiting it to only Tamil films that didn’t also have Telugu dubs, that means eliminating films that the filmmakers thought could be big enough to have cross-language appeal, so you are grading on a curve. But here’s the interesting thing, Kabali was 35 at the Australian box office, and Mersal was 8. So something has shifted.

      On Tue, Oct 24, 2017 at 5:59 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



      • Well there goes that theory then…oh well.

        It is interesting about Australia though because usually Rajinikanth is in league of his own when it comes to Tamil films. Vijay is probably next in line but that usually that means “non-Rajini” records. It will be interesting to see the numbers when 2.0 comes out.


        • Yes, this seems to be pointing to a general move towards more openness for the Tamil industry, similar to the shift that happened with Punjabi films. If that is the case, 2.0 is going to be crazy big.

          On Tue, Oct 24, 2017 at 7:12 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



  5. Pingback: Box Office: Kerala Arrives in the UK, Aamir Arrives Everywhere Else | dontcallitbollywood

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