Box Office: The Rise of Pakistan!!!!!

Well huh!  This makes it the second week after the Teefa release week when Pakistan is making noise.  And this week it is actually beating the competition. (figures from Bollywoodhungama, as always)

Let me start with something interesting.  I was looking for fanvids last night of my favorite Hindi film actors.  And instead I found this:

 

And this:

 

And then youtube recommended this for me:

 

So, it’s happened!  Pakistani film has reached the point of youtube stardom, fanvids, and all the rest of it.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that it has also reached the point of taking over the international box office.

It’s still not a massive success, you could ignore it if you wanted.  The two new Pakistani films, Jawani Phir Nahi Ani 2 and Parwaz Hai Junoon, were 3rd and 4th of the south Asian films at the American box office.  Second and third in Canada.  1st and 3rd in the UK.  And 3rd and 4th in Australia.  Neither of them, on their own, was super super impressive (except for the UK).  But the point is, there were two of them.  Two separate Pakistani films, splitting their traditional audience (not many people see two movies in a weekend) and still doing well.

Image result for jawani phir nahi ani 2 poster

(How can you tell it’s Pakistani?  Hot guys, perfectly fitted jackets, scarves)

For the raw numbers, in America and Australia, Geetha Govindram is still holding on.  Still on 129 screens in America and $2,500 per screen.  In Australia, 12 screens and about $2,250 per screen.  This isn’t super good, but at least it means the second week isn’t a total drop.  No growth, no new people being brought in by word of mouth, but still a few who missed opening weekend or might want to see it a second time.

Happy Phir Bhaag Jayege opened pretty weak.  Only 32 screens in America and only $1,500 per screen.  Better in Canada, almost $3,000 per screen.  But then, Canadian prices are better and Canada goes big for Punjabi stuff, which makes that $3,000 far less than could be expected.  45 screens in the UK, so they had decent expectations there, and only $800 per screen.  33 screens in Australia, only about $1,000 per screen.  Better in New Zealand, 10 screens only but $2,000 per screen.

Gold is still doing well in Canada, Satyamev Jayate in New Zealand.  But everywhere else, they are both dropping fast.  No staying power.

Now, let’s talk Pakistani!  I actually looked it up, the entire Pakistani heritage population of Canada is only 160,000.  In Australia, there are only 61,000.  And yet these two Pakistani films sold thousands of tickets.  Sure, if you look at the raw numbers, it lines up.  One in 5 of the Pakistani population bought a ticket to see these movies, which even feels low.  But then you start thinking about how they were only playing in a few urban centers, meaning only one in 5 of the Pakistani population would even have had access to them.  And then you start thinking about if they new the films were playing, if they were able to buy a ticket opening weekend, and so on and so on.  And it ends up being just impossible to imagine that these movies are limiting their audience to the Pakistani heritage public.  They MUST be bringing in people from outside their diaspora audience, a lot of people.

Now, let’s look at these two movies!  Jawani Phir Nahi Ani 2, a rom-com sequel, opened on 35 screens in America and made $2,500 per screen.  Which wouldn’t be spectacular for a Telugu film or a Hindi film or a Punjabi film, but this is Pakistani, a new kid on the block.  And 35 screens and $2,500 is really impressive.  In Canada, the same movie made $3,200 per screen on 8 screens (that’s what I was saying, if it’s only on 8 screens, there is no way all 160,000 Pakistani-Canadians would even have access to it).  In the UK, it was the top south Asian film of the week, 47 screens and $1,800 per screen.  Australia, 9 screens and $2,800 per screen (best per screen average of any film last week).

Parwaaz Hai Junoon, a romance set in the Pakistani air force, 38 screens and $1,500 per screen in America.  9 screens and $3,500 per screen in Canada.  21 screens and $1,500 per screen in the UK.  16 screens and $1,500 per screen in Australia.

Image result for parwaaz hai junoon poster

(Hot guys, perfectly fitted jackets, no scarves.  But then, they are in uniform, so it probably isn’t allowed)

What is it about these two movies?  Why are they doing so well?  Partly it is because it is a new market, partly it is because it was a festival release (Eid al-Adha).  But I think it is also because they provided a new kind of content that had been missing.

Jawani Phir Nahi Ani 2 is a sequel to a silly farce about 3 friends and their wives, husband and wife shenanigans, etc.  The sequel has the one single friend from the original falling in love with an Indian.  It’s the kind of big silly comedy that Hindi film hasn’t really provided this year (I am looking at Hindi film in particular because of the similar language and culture that would make it easy for the audience to relate).  Plus, there is a cross-border love story treated lightly, something Hindi film hasn’t done since PK.  And it is clearly a story people want to watch, lighthearted hijinks and India-Pakistan hatred treated as a joke (in this case, the bride’s father is against the match because he was hit in the head by a rogue ball hit by a Pakistani player during an Indo-Pak match).

Parwaaz Hai Junoon is the one I find far more interesting.  The basic plot seems familiar, high romance between two best friend pilots and a beautiful girl.  Only, the girl is a hotshot pilot too!  They fall in love during training together.  It’s a patriotic film, and yet it is finding a crossover audience.  I assume because it provides the kind of swoony romance that Hindi film has not so far this year.  And because it provides a female fighter pilot, which is something no film industry anywhere else provides.  And yes, Pakistan does have female fighter pilots.  Has for years.  India, just started training their first batch this year.  So if you are a woman who speaks Hindustani and lives in Canada or America or Australia or the UK, and you really want to watch a movie about a female fighter pilot and the two men who love her, Pakistani films are your only option.  Yet another way that you can’t simply say “Pakistan is worse with woman’s rights than India”.  They each have their own strengths and weaknesses, as do all cultures.

And right now, Pakistani film is one of their strengths, while Indian film is increasingly becoming a weakness.

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19 thoughts on “Box Office: The Rise of Pakistan!!!!!

    • There was a thriving Lahore film industry pre-Partition, and then it kind of went down and up and down and up for the past several decades. I think it is still based in Lahore (versus Islamabad or Karachi). Pakistani television is extremely strong, especially recently, a lot of the new talent in film is coming out of that.

      On Tue, Aug 28, 2018 at 8:38 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Pakistani cinema is just taking baby steps and is just happy making fun silly movies mainly targeted at the family audience. My understanding is that most of the production houses got wiped out in the 80s and 90s as Bollywood movies became the prime source of entertainment in Pakistan.

        Pakistani television is strong and is now giving rise to the movie industry. Each of the major TV channels have started their film production wing and are producing movies but the main source of income is still television. For example, JPNA2 has been partially produced by ARY Films (ARY Digital) and Parwaaz hai Junoon is produced by Hum Films (Hum TV).

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        • Fascinating! Thank you! And makes sense, that the rise of the VHS enabled Indian films to cross the border and killed the Pakistani film industry. And then the rise of streaming and satellite let Pakistani TV shows cross the other way and reinvigorated international interest. Funny how technology works like that.

          On Tue, Aug 28, 2018 at 3:21 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • No no, Hollywood producers are professionals and intelligent and better, South Asian producers are emotional and illogical and far inferior. This is what I have been told many many times. Look to Hollywood! The last bastion of artistic exploration and sound business sense!

      And yes, it seems like such an obvious idea. Especially the way this film is structured, so far as I can tell from the description, it’s essentially the old stand by college romance (or med school romance or engineering school romance or business school romance), only set in fighter school. How can you not love this? “Student of the Year, but fighter pilots”, practically sells itself.

      On Tue, Aug 28, 2018 at 9:25 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • Is that another Netflix one? Probably not, it’s all I can do to keep up on theatrical releases, unless it is a big bit deal (like Sacred Games or Lust Stories), I think I will have to let Netflix go.

          I am feeling warm feelings towards Hollywood, because a commentator on Shahrukh’s interview that Disney is making a live action Artemis Fowl, and I just looked it up and the casting is PERFECT. Judi Dench and Commander Root! But yes, in general, it feels like where creativity goes to die. I find it so strange to read all these “if only we could be like Hollywood” comments from Indian filmmakers, because why would you want to, they are horrible!

          On Tue, Aug 28, 2018 at 11:09 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  1. I am so happy that Pakistani cinema is making some sort of mark internationally. But honestly it was not a smart decision to release 3 big budget movies on the same day (Eid). I feel that these movies all ate into each others business. The third movie, Load Wedding, got sidelined by JPNA2 and Parwaaz hai Junoon. Which is unfortunate because I think this movie had the most potential to crossover into the international Punjabi market.

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    • It was brilliant to release them on Eid al Adha, just because it was a holiday no one else was taking. Eid Al Fitr, there is usually a Hindi release competing, but not with this holiday. Plus it coincided with Pakistani Independence celebrations. Maybe that’s why everyone got tempted and piled on.

      But surely there are other Muslim holidays they can use? Times when no other industry would have a holiday so they can pick up holiday celebrations and also people with nothing else to watch? Dilwale releases usually do really really well in the international market partly because it is a dead time for holidays from any other tradition. So they get the Dilwale celebrations, but also just the random people who want something to watch and Hollywood is holding off all their blockbusters until closer to Christmas.

      On Tue, Aug 28, 2018 at 3:16 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. I know I always talk about Mahira Khan and she’s not in either of these movies, but I was really impressed by this interview she did on Hard Talk BBC, and she talks a lot about the current state of the Pakistani film industry. This was right after Verna almost got banned, but didn’t, which she decided to view as a victory for free expression and a promising sign for the future. She also talks about how recently things have opened up in media there, which I hadn’t realized.

    (Mahira has some serious interview skills. In this one she takes a hostile interviewer – that’s the show format – who’s doing the usual condescending British thing of throwing statistics at her and trying to make her answer for all the ills of her country, and she keeps turning the conversation back around and talking about what an inspiring time it is to be working in film in Pakistan. All in the most charming and gentle way possible.)

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    • Thanks much for sharing this! After watching Humsafar, I’m a big fan of Mahira’s skills as an actor. On one hand I thought it was a loss for the Hindi films audience that we can’t watch actors like Fawad & Mahira perform in India.But on the other hand, Hindi films do not have the depth to do justice to their skills & they would be typecast & wasted in star films. Now after watching this interview, I’m even more impressed by her personality & ability to handle tough, intrusive questions so well, reply with so much balance & sensitivity & end on a note that brought a smile even on the interviewer(man, he’s blunt!). I can’t help comparing her with the Hindi film actors & she comes off with so much more poise, eloquence & honesty. Can’t wait to watch Verna. The trailer was good.

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      • I definitely wish they could cast and promote across borders! But it sounds like they’re making the best of a tough situation and pouring energy into building up their local industry, which is wonderful for the rest of us. Only they don’t seem to have such wide distribution as the Indian industries yet, it’s hard for me to get access to more than a handful of recent films in the US.

        I had the same thought about Mahira’s poise. Even SRK didn’t handle his Hard Talk interview with such skill, and he’s a pro if anyone is.

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        • SRK is used to fawning journalists in India. He was unprepared for the aggressive format of the interview-though I can’t imagine why he didn’t, if he had bothered to check up on at least the name of the interview he was appearing in. Mahira reminds me of some of the women actors down south in India who also have to face terribly patriarchal & misogynistic attitude from the general public. I think the kind of backlash & oppressive atmosphere give rise to stronger individuals(even for someone with a privileged upbringing like Mahira’s)deeper thoughts & a stronger desire to talk about them than someone who is literally living an emperor’s life in his own bubble. Not just SRK, but many of the male superstars in south also are having a rude awakening to the issues ppl around them face & how their films may have contributed at least in part to the shaping up of the attitude towards women in India.
          I’m excited for the Pakistani shows & films. They have a very unpolluted & richer cultural essence that’s similar yet very distinct from the Hindi content-maybe due to the lesser degree of commercialisation. Have you checked YouTube in US to see the content available from Pakistan? I can see many Pakistani shows available in YouTube India.

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          • I haven’t checked YouTube, I’ll try there. Thanks! Let me know if you have recommendations :). I’ve seen Humsafar, Sadqay Tumhare, and Zindagi Gulzar Hai.

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    • Yes indeedy! Any time I’m at the movie theater and a trailer starts and I think “my goodness he’s handsome!” my next thought is “must be a Pakistani film”.

      On Wed, Aug 29, 2018 at 1:16 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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