Box Office Overseas: Stree Word of Mouth Hasn’t Crossed the Oceans Yet

Huh.  I am seeing all these stories about how wonderful Stree is doing in the Indian market, and I am just not seeing that in the overseas market.  Interesting, we don’t usually get such a strong divide. (as always, figures from Bollywoodhungama)

Let’s start with America.  Stree was the top desi film of the weekend, on only 60 screens.  That sounds impressive, but the thing is, 60 screens really is not that much.  It shows that the distributors didn’t have much faith in it.  And the per screen average shows that they were correct, only about $2,800 per screen.  Which is decent for a low budget kind of art film, but this isn’t quite that.  It’s not a big budget star film, but it’s definitely somewhere above an art film.  Geetha Govindam in week 3 did about the same per screen ($2,200) and had about the same number of screens (56).

Image result for stree poster

Stree did about the same in Canada in Canada, opening opposite a Punjabi film and only getting 8 screens and $3,200 per screen versus the Punjabi film Mar Gaye Oye Loko getting 20 screens and $7,000 per screen.  In the UK it was crushed by screen count by Yamla Pagla Deewana Phir Se (38) and by per screen by the second week of the Pakistani film Jawani Phir Nahi Ani 2 ($1,600).  Meanwhile Stree had only 11 screens and made only $1,500 per screen).  In Australia it had the most screens of all desi releases, 21, which is still not the highest possible for the Australian market.  And it made slightly better per screen than the leading competition, the Tamil film Imaikkaa Nodigal on 15 screens and $2,400 per screen to Stree‘s $2,600.

So, what is this saying?  Stree‘s distributors had little faith, but still some faith.  They gave it a barely decent release across the board (there have been films that were released on as little as 30 screens and only in a few countries).  And they were right, Stree attracted a solid audience, but not a spectacular one.  It brought in people who like Rajkummar Rao, like horror, like comedy, like Shraddha, like the trailer.  And that’s enough to about half fill a theater, if you combine all those folks.  The import thing is, all those elements are enough to actually get people in the door, they care enough about them to show up.  Karwaan, another movie with a small release and niche stars, was able to bring in people who really really cared about Irrfan Khan.  But the “contemplative internal journey” audience isn’t the type who rushes to see a movie in theaters, not like horror-comedy people who want to see it with a crowd, to bring friends along.  This movie got the bump of the names, and the two genres that both appeal to a theater experience rather than a home one.  And that was enough to make it a solid thump at the box office.  Not quite a hit, but a definite thump.

What I am really curious is about next week.  Because in India, Stree is doing very well.  In a particular way I will explain in a moment.  But a good Indian box office, in this particular way, can translate to a word of mouth that crosses oceans.  If the Indian audience is able to see it, rushing to see it, they are going to tell their friends and family overseas, and come next weekend they will be rushing too.  And the distributors and theater owners will be getting those messages too.

Image result for stree poster

(So, NOT keeping quiet like Rajkummar is saying.  Also, can Shraddha not aim her finger enough to hit her mouth?  Should we worry about her?)


Now, HOW exactly is it doing well?  Bollywoodhungama has a handy thing (here) that lists out the opening weekend, opening week, and total take for all the recent films for which they have data (which is not anywhere close to all the films, but it’s a starting point).

Let’s look at some other films for comparison.  Happy Phir Bhaag Jayege, which should be about the same as Stree (no super big names, but known names, minor ad campaign, minor release), made 2.70 crore opening day, and 11.78 opening weekend, and that was considered as expected.  Stree made 6.82 opening day and 31.26 opening weekend.  Stree is obviously far far outstripping it, going way beyond expectations for this kind of film.  But in terms of growth, it was the same percentage, both films made about 5 times over the whole weekend what they made in the first day.

Now let’s look at Gold.  It was a major release on a holiday weekend and it made 25 crore opening night and 70 crore over the full weekend.  But notice the drop off?  The full weekend was slightly less than 3 times what opening night was alone.  It couldn’t even hold steady through a full weekend. And sure enough in week 3, the lifetime total is only 103 crore.  Almost the entire profit was in that first weekend alone.

(So, it is NOT, in fact, bringing home the gold)


Fanney Khan is another one with a drop off, 2.15 crore opening night, 7.15 opening weekend (only 3 times opening night, not 5) and a lifetime total of only 10 crore.  But then there is Mulk, only made 1.68 crore opening night.  But a total of 8.16 opening weekend, almost reaching that 5xs level.  And the lifetime total was 20 crore, more than half the profit made AFTER opening weekend.

For most of the films on the list, the pattern is that opening day is 20-25% of the opening weekend total, and the opening weekend is 60% of the overall total.  The disasters are the ones where the opening day is 30-40% of opening weekend and opening weekend is 70% or higher of the over all total.

Of course, the raw figures matter as well.  But not as much.  Gold opened very well, but thanks to the steep drop, the opening night figures are meaningless in the long run.  Fanney Khan opened better than Mulk, but Mulk ended up making twice as much money by the end of its run.

(Wooo, Mulk!  That promotional campaign was a disaster, I don’t even remember when this song launched.  But I am glad it found an audience anyway)

The two big hits of the year, Padmaavat and Sanju, had very similar patterns.  They followed they 5x’s pattern for opening day versus opening weekend, and by the end of the first week had made 60% of their profit.  For all the talk about their success, they did not have much staying power.

There are quite a few films on the list that achieved 50% of their box office AFTER opening weekend.  Veere Di Wedding, Mulk, 102 Not Out.  The small solid performers overseas were holding steady in India as well.  But there is only one film that achieved 75% of its profit AFTER week 1.  Raazi, only made 7.53 crore on opening night, and 32.94 crore opening weekend.  By the end of the first week it had made 56.59 crore.  And by the end of its run, it made 123.84 crore.

Oh, there is one other with that pattern.  Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety made 6.42 crore opening night, 26.57 crore opening weekend, 45.94 opening week, and a total life time take of 108.95.

Padmaavat and Sanju were major hits, with major releases and major ad campaigns and major budgets.  Veere Di Wedding, Mulk, 102 Not Out and the others like them were word of mouth hits, they had their minor slice of the audience and that slice heard good things and came to see it in week 2 and 3 and 4, and then came back and saw it again.

Raazi and Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, those were word of mouth BLOCKBUSTERS.  The first weekend was bigger than expected, but it was week two and three that were the shockers.  What I find interesting is that, in the international market, the first weekend was on the good end of expected, but it was the weeks 2 and 3 and 4 for these films that showed surprising staying power.  The overseas and Indian divide was extremely present week 1, and then balanced out in later weeks.

(I will use any excuse to post one of these songs again)

So, this is the pattern I am expecting for Stree.  A big opening at home and a small one overseas seems to indicate a long long run.  The same big opening everywhere (like Padmavat, Sanju, and Gold all had) means it is driven by publicity that was dropped down everywhere the same.  And it means that the best you can hope for is an average run and a steady drop after the first weekend.  The same average opening everywhere means it could still pull off a steady growth in the next few weeks.  But a big first weekend in India and a small one everywhere else means people are coming in based on word of mouth, word of mouth that hasn’t reached outside of India yet.  And that word of mouth is just going to grow and grow and grow as time goes on, leading to a better second weekend than a first overseas, and a long long very profitable run.



13 thoughts on “Box Office Overseas: Stree Word of Mouth Hasn’t Crossed the Oceans Yet

  1. Considering the one movie theater that plays Indian films in my hometown wasn’t playing it, I’m not entirely surprised that Stree’s overseas figures aren’t as good as their domestic figures. I really hope they add more screens over time though.


    • Yeah, same here. I had to drive over an hour to see it, none of the regular theaters were playing it. It’s not just screen count, it’s theater choice, the downtown one in Chicago and the All Indian one in the suburbs play every Hindi release, even Bareilly Ki Barfi and Karwaan which initially released on fewer screens (I think), but they didn’t take this one. Didn’t think it would play well I guess, so it landed at a weird theater.

      I hope next weekend even if it doesn’t gain screens, it rearranges screens, moves from the weird way out theaters to the regular Indian ones.


  2. As I mentioned last week, I’m in silicon valley, and many Indian movies play here in multiple theaters, with accessible showtimes.

    As I mentioned on Friday, Stree played on exactly 1 screen in exactly 1 theater here all weekend long, with only 2 show times, 315p and 1030p. And I’m in silicon valley, where even low budget Indian films and art films play in multiple screens in multiple theaters at multiple show times. Add to that, no other Hindi film release, and a 3 day weekend. Needless to say, every showing was sold out or nearly so (I only know this through the grapevine).

    Meanwhile Alissa said she had only 5 ppl in her theater. And one thing about LA/OC is that no one drives more than a 5 mile radius to go anywhere because traffic is so extreme. So sounds like it wasn’t showing where Indians go or live?

    It’s like alissa said in another post… Do they not enjoy making money?

    Maybe they were going for scarcity to build buzz? But when I see that a movie is only playing at 3 & 10p on 1 screen in 1 theater, then I’m going to automatically assume that the movie is bad.

    For this sort of film, the diaspora audience who has lived abroad for more than say, 15 years, is highly sensitive to critical reviews. And all the print/written and YouTube reviews have raved over this film.

    For all these reasons combined, I feel that this first weekend take overseas is artificially depressed, just like you have explained that race 3 etc numbers are artificially inflated by flooding the theaters.


    • What you saw with the theater distribution is the same as what I saw in my market. Generally Hindi films play in 5 theaters near me. 2 of them only get the bigger releases, and some random smaller ones for no particular reason. 3 of them get basically everything. And out of those 5, only one was playing Stree. And it was the one farthest out from the city, hardest to reach. So, the equivalent of the 3pm and 10pm showtimes. Meanwhile Yamla Pagla Deewane was playing everywhere. And the strange thing is, based on screen counts, Yamla Pagla Deewana was actually on fewer screens. It was just playing at more of the “standard” theaters.

      Alisa also mentioned that the theater near her playing it was the one with the drinks and recliner seats (I think). Same for me, the theater that was playing it was the one that had been made over to be a high priced luxury theater. Maybe Stree was aimed at the wealthy crowd? Passed by the usual Indian theaters so it could play at the luxury outlets? That would also explain the low per screen figures, at least the theater I was in can only sell about 1/3rd as many tickets thanks to the bigger seats and more foot space. And the ticket prices were about the same.

      On Tue, Sep 4, 2018 at 2:43 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



      • I did indeed see it in the swanky theater but when I saw Padman in the same place, it had an almost sold out crowd even though the movie sort of flopped overall. So I’m not sure what happened with Stree. Meanwhile, a non-Desi friend of mine told me it’s now playing near her in Sherman Oaks (west San Gabriel Valley) and she’s seeing it this week based on my recommendation. So I did my part to up the box office!


        • Good for you! Keep those box office numbers high, by hook or by crook!

          Based on how well Stree is doing in India, I almost wonder if cheaper theaters might be where it does better? Padman felt aimed at the overseas “Rah rah BJP let’s fantasize village life!” audience to me, while Stree feels more more grounded in the reality of life for a young Indian man who is not super super rich. I could see the boys who work at the sweet shops in my neighborhood enjoying it more than the ones who live out in the suburbs and went to make going to the movies a luxury event. And the sweet shop people are going to go to my run down All Indian theater, not the fancy one in the fancy suburbs.

          On Tue, Sep 4, 2018 at 3:50 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



      • Our one screen showering Stree was general seating, not reserved recliners.

        Around here, both kinds of seats sell well, since the $15 recliner is inexpensive to the single high tech worker, and the general seats get snapped up by Movie Pass holders, also popular with single high tech worker.

        The one screen has added an additional showing, 730pm, but only for today, and no other theaters have picked it up.


        • Huh. I will be very curious to see what the showtimes look like next weekend, especially since Paltaan and Laila Majnu are opening which are just about the exact opposite in what audience they will appeal to.

          On Tue, Sep 4, 2018 at 4:07 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



  3. Another thing… Stree has no Facebook presence. When I posted my review of Sree, and chose “watching” and type Stree, it comes up with “street fighter” and other entertainment items that start with street. So I typed stree in manually, but the damage is already done, because now fb won’t propagate my post to others’ newsfeeds who might potentially like Stree. My fb posts typically get 25-50 likes plus some comments. My Stree post got only 2 likes. So their not having put Stree into FB as a movie to choose basically dampens publicity, word of mouth, etc.


    • Interesting, because the rest of the marketing was so youthful and intelligent, the tone of the trailers and so on. Strange they would miss something really obvious.

      On Tue, Sep 4, 2018 at 4:28 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



  4. Interesting that you say Mulk is profitable. Just read in another website that it is ‘below average’. Flops maybe hoisted as hits or semi hits but how can a profitable movie be deemed below average. Makes me wonder how much analysis is really done by the experts & if there are any other considerations at play in presenting the performance of a movie to the public.


    • With Mulk it’s that growth that sticks out for me. There was something there that the audience responded to and grew over time instead of shrinking. It’s a film that breaks the pattern of all the other movies somehow. It could still have been a below average take overall, I just think it’s interesting that it grew in later weeks for no obvious reason.

      On Tue, Sep 4, 2018 at 11:27 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



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