Well, this was interesting. Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety won the weekend on only 66 screens easily beating Padman and Padmavat (at least, this week). (figures as always courtesy of Rentrack by way of Bollywoodhungama)
Get ready, I’m gonna say something radical: I think people might actually want Indian movies that feel like Indian movies? Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, which I didn’t see because I was busy at home writing a series of Sridevi posts, sounds like it is silly and bright and romantic and kind of ridiculous. And it’s doing better than Padman, the serious “high quality” film, and Welcome to New York, the big in joke comedy film with all the big name cameos.
More importantly, it’s doing better than them with NO STARS. This is the same thing that happened over the summer with Shubh Mangal Saavdhan and Bareilly Ki Barfi. People want love stories with little happy plots. And for some reason the big name stars are no longer willing to make them, or somehow once a big name star gets involved it stops being small. So it’s your smaller stars who make them and then everyone is stunned when the box office is good.
Well, not “everyone”. Welcome to New York released on 84 screens in America to Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety‘s 66. But my local all Indian theater only had 2 shows a day for Welcome to New York, and it had 5 of Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety. Welcome to New York may have been able to win over the larger chains, but the little local Indian theaters are beginning to wake up to what really sells tickets and they saw something in Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety.
Not saying it set box office records, it made about $3,500 per screen in America. But that’s really good, considering it was barely promoted, had no stars, and the box office is in a terrible state here. It made about $4,000 per screen in Australia and New Zealand, which again isn’t record breaking, but is good for an unknown film. Tanked in the UK, but then they don’t like these small rom-coms much there.
But again, it’s the screen counts that tell the story. Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety had less screens everywhere but Australia than Padmavat in week 5. The expectation was that a big big heavily promoted star studded film, even in week 5, would do better than this little out of nowhere thing. And that’s just not true. The audience wants these smaller films, enjoys these smaller films, and that’s your best bet in these off weeks. Small and new is better than big and aging.
Or big and tired. Padman didn’t open well, and sank quickly post-opening. The per screen is just abysmal everywhere. Less than a thousand everywhere, in week 3. You could say it is because the release date was moved and promotional scheduled messed up, or because it opened when Padmavat was still strong, but considering that Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety had almost no promotion and Padmavat was dropping already when Padman came out, none of those arguments hold up.
(Akshay’s gotta find a new shtick. Again.)
The audience is just tired of this kind of film, the soft social justice movie. It’s been around since 3 Idiots and it’s time to move on. And the audience figures are telling us where to move on to, small clever rom-coms, that’s where people will go with no promotion, no stars, no reason besides a poster that catches their eye and a title that tells them what it is.