Global Box Office: Sui Dhaaga Suicides, Chekka Chivantha Vaanam Churns Change

I decided to try to get back to the clever titles.  It’s my little writerly moment in these otherwise very dull number posts (as always, numbers come from bollywoodhungama)

I’m not terribly surprised by these figures.  For one thing, Chekka Chivantha Vaanam was a Thursday or even Wednesday release depending on where you were in the world.  But more importantly, when I went to see Sui Dhaaga on Friday, there were maybe 20 people in my theater, and the two screens that were showing Chekka and the one screen showing the Telugu dub Nawab were all sold out.  So not a great shock to me that Chekka is doing far about around the world than Sui Dhaaga.  Although, from what I can see, Sui Dhaaga is doing well back home in India.

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In America, Chekka Chivantha Vaanam did $5,500 per screen on 95 screens.  Sui Dhaaga did $2,800 per screen on 169 screens.  Chekka didn’t release in Canada, but even so Sui Dhaaga lagged behind, coming in 3rd after two Punjabi films.  But doing respectable even so, $4,000 per screen on 21 screens.  The UK was the lowest per screen (as is usual), $1,100 on 79 screens.  The screen count is very high though, especially considering Chekka was on a further 43.  Chekka did better per screen although less over all, $1,500 per screen.  In Australia, Chekka did a solid $10,000 per screen on 25 screens, while Sui Dhaaga lagged far behind with 36 screens and only $4,000 per screen.  New Zealand was similar, Sui Dhaaga on 14 screens and only $2,800 per screen, while Chekka was on 6 screens and made $4,700 per screen.

So, what does this tell me?  Well, a superficial (or “stupid”) analysis would say Sui Dhaaga lost the audience to Chekka.  But that is obviously not the case once we look at the two films.  Sui Dhaaga is an aggressively family film, avoids so much as an embrace between the hero and heroine and includes cute small children and lovable older folks.  Chekka is aggressively “adult” in all ways, adult moral questions, adult way of dealing with sex, and very adult and explicit scenes of violence.  You aren’t going to find the same people coming to the theater for these two different films.

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(Also, kind of hilarious that the village set very swadeshi film is failing against the shockingly violent film on Gandhi Jayanti weekend)

And that’s setting aside the language issues.  Neither Sui Dhaaga or Chekka are interested in being an all-India hit.  They both use lots of slang versions of their two languages (Tamil or Telugu and Hindi) and they are both firmly based in their locations (Madras and the UP).  And most importantly, they both have firmly north or south Indian casts.  Prakash Raj and Aditi Rao Hydari have been in Hindi language films, I am sure some of the other members of the very large main cast of Chekka have as well.  But they aren’t known to the Hindi audience, they weren’t cast to bring in that audience.  And the main roles, Arvind Swamy and Jyothika and Vijay Sethupathi, those are all firmly southern actors, well-known and beloved of the southern audience and not outside of it.  Sui Dhaaga, same thing, Anushka and Varun are very well known, but also firmly of the northern Hindi speaking regions.  Anushka in particular, she is courting the northern audience co-starring with Diljit Dosanjh and otherwise identifying herself with her Punjabi roots.  These are not films that will easily break out of their language groups.

So, where is the difference happening?  Well, it’s that every single person who might possibly be considered a member of the Tamil audience is showing up for Chekka, and only a few of the Hindi/Northern audience are showing up for Sui Dhaaga.  I was talking about this in the comments a few weeks ago, the simplest way to think about it is breaking the audience down into 4 groups:

  1. People who just like watching movies and will watch whatever they think they will enjoy that week.
  2. People who are devoted to a particular star/language and will show up for them alone.
  3. People who wait for the second week, for word of mouth, and then make the decision about whether it sounds like a movie they will like.
  4. People who only turn out for the major event can’t miss movies and otherwise wait for streaming or pirate films.

 

The vast majority of the audience is in that 4th group.  The trick of it is, how do you convince them this is a major can’t miss movie?  Stars used to be the way to do it.  And to some degree that still works.  The big name in the cast guarantees a big release and a big budget and all the other things that get people excited and talking and make you feel like you will be left out of the cultural conversation if you miss this film opening weekend.

The second group used to be far larger than it is now.  For the languages, when it was rarer to get a Hindi film, and then later a Telugu or Tamil film, you would turn out to watch it just because it was there.  Now, those films release in the major markets every week, and if you miss them in theaters you can always catch them streaming, it won’t be your only chance.  And of course star power has declined as well, especially in the Hindi and Telugu markets.  There isn’t anyone who can really guarantee a good opening any more, not in any language, not even Rajinikanth.

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(Kaala, didn’t do that shockingly well)

The first group, that’s where you might find movement between languages.  If you just like seeing movies, and you speak Hindi, you may pick a Punjabi film over a Hindi one this particular week just because you like the poster or the plot description.  The same way you may pick between Tamil or Malayalam or Telugu (especially if the films are dubbed and cross released) based on what you think you might like.  But this group, while solid, is fairly small.  If I see a difference of a thousand per screen, that is this group moving back and forth.  But this week, it is much much more than a thousand per screen and it is all over the world!

 

So, what this is telling me is that Sui Dhaaga managed to capture part of that group 1 (losing some others to Punjabi films especially in Canada), and probably also a few people from group 2 (those Anushka or Varun stalwarts, or the ones who just want to watch any Hindi film).  But it completely missed the groups 3 and 4.  The early buzz wasn’t enough to draw in folks through word of mouth, and it didn’t feel like an event film that could not be missed.

(This song says “nice movie” not “event movie”)

 

Meanwhile Chekka Chivantha Vaanam, in its own way, has done a clean sweep of the last 3 groups.  The regular boring movie goers don’t really turn out for Tamil films, that’s why Tamil films have such a low overall market penetration compared to Telugu and Hindi.  But on the other hand, when there is a big deal film, the Tamil audience comes out of the woodwork.  Mersal and Vikram-Vedha both saw a similar boost.

Here’s what’s really interesting about CCV.  So far as I can tell, what made it a major event movie, a can’t miss and can’t wait for streaming, a word of mouth buzz, the whole thing, wasn’t loyalty to a particular actor but rather to a director!  Vijay Sethupathi and maybe Jyothika (based on what little I know) are maybe the most popular members of the cast.  But they don’t have the largest role and weren’t particular emphasized in the promotions.  It couldn’t be there names driving in this large audience.  It was Mani Ratnam who was the star, whose name was emphasized in the posters and every where else.  Even AR Rahman took second place this time, the soundtrack isn’t spectacular and isn’t meant to be, no big popular songs released in advance to sweep the nation and get people excited.  It is just the idea of a Mani Ratnam crime film.  And that alone is enough to bring in the crowds.

(This is my favorite song, and it didn’t even get a video release in advance of the film)

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17 thoughts on “Global Box Office: Sui Dhaaga Suicides, Chekka Chivantha Vaanam Churns Change

    • That’s interesting. It seems like since her launch in Rab Ne she has been heavily Punjabi identified in her most memorable characters. Band Baaja Baarat, Phillauri, Sultan, Patiala House, it’s hard to think of a movie where she isn’t playing some variation on a Punjabi.

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  1. Is it just me or did Sui Dhaaga not get the typical hype that this size YRF movies get? I felt like movies like Hichki, Meri Pyaari Bindu, and Befikre were promoted more compared to Sui Dhaaga.

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    • It felt about the same as Hichki to me. Which was odd, because Hichki was a female lead film with only one name star, while this was a film with a romantic storyline and two major stars who you would think people would want to see together. On the other hand, this director/producer team was unlikely to come up with something really commercial. I don’t know, just an odd mix. It could have been a whole different film if there was one really big catchy song number, not over the end credits but in the film itself. As it was, it just felt a little too lowkey and unmemorable to me.

      On Mon, Oct 1, 2018 at 6:34 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Yes! Since they went with the fashion show storyline which is quite filmi, I’m sure they could have found a way to have a big song number in the movie itself. They didn’t really commit to the larger scale of the movie that would have allowed for more dance numbers.

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        • Exactly, it’s the larger scale that was missing. Put in a fantasy song, a big dance number, and a sincere love scene, and this becomes a whole different movie. And you can do that without losing the grounded feel to it, Dabangg and Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi both managed that balance.

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          • And come to think of it, RNBDJ had a far more grounded second half plot, but still managed to include big songs.

            On Tue, Oct 2, 2018 at 1:14 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. It seems like CCV is being seen as a resurrection of Mani Ratnam. Not that he went anywhere, but he hasn’t really had a great big hit in a while. Ok Kanmani was probably his last hit and it wasn’t really treated like an event film. This is being seen as a throw-back to the Mani Ratnam of Nayagan/Thalapathi. Also, there really aren’t that many multi-starrers in Tamil of late- Tamil actors with non-Tamil big actors maybe but none really with Tamil actors. This is about as close as I suspect we’ll get. I think this movie hit all four groups in a way. There’s generally good reviews to pull in 1 and 3. Among the Tamil audience at least, there’s a bit of buzz about the ‘Mani Rathnam is back/multistarrer’ which would be group 4. And I think Mani Ratnam certainly has his own fans who will show up for his films so you’ve got 2 as well.

    Would you happen to know how Pariyerum Perumal is doing? I know it had a very limited release in the US. It’s director Ranjith’s production and I really enjoyed it. (If you get the chance to see it, I’d highly recommend!) I know it’s a long shot but I want this movie to do well.

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    • I see that Pariyerum Perumal has excellent reviews, and the young guy from Vikram-Vedha plays main character. Looks like a very good film. Thanks for mentioning it.

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    • I hadn’t thought about the multi-starrer effect. If I am correct in my understanding of the cast, they aren’t necessarily the top stars but most of them are well-known names, and there’s a lot of them, so I can see that appeal. And the multi-starrer promises a certain kind of film, right? Epic and sweeping and complex to do justice to that cast.

      Pariyerum Perumal is not getting box office figures tracked, so I have no idea unfortunately.

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      • Yup – pretty much. None of them are individually huge stars but big enough that their coming together is a big deal. Add Mani Rathnam and that makes it little bigger.

        Angie- no problem! 🙂

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  3. Among the recent box office carnage 1 film which has able to buck the trend has been stree.
    It has been. Able to .and decent amount even in week 6.
    No trade analyst is able to explain why it is doing so well when all movies are getting trashed left right centre.
    Do u have any theories for the same ?

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    • Sure, there could be a couple of reasons. It avoided the temptation of giving bad word of mouth just to prove you are superior (because it had no stars or big names attached). It hit straight at an accurate dipiction of the Indian heartland, no sentimental fantasy just reality. It’s a combination of two popular genres, Horror and Comedy. And it’s just plain good.

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