Well, the numbers are out and AndhaDhun is a shocking hit! Not the biggest ever, or even the biggest of the year, but far bigger than I would expect for a film like this. (as always, figures from bollywoodhungama)
This is one of those weekends that is all about expectation and per screen. If you just look at the raw box office total for AndhaDhun in America, it isn’t that impressive, only about 2/3rds of what, just to pick a comparison at random, Gold made. But AndhaDhun released on 51 screens, and Gold released on 161. AndhaDhun released on a non-Holiday, Gold released on Independence Day. AndhaDhun is a low budget black comedy/thriller, Gold is a big inspiring sports story. Gold had Akshay Kumar, AndhaDhun had Ayushmann Khurrana. The screen count, the release date, that tells me even the producers didn’t have much faith in AndhaDhun. The cast and topic tells me why they didn’t. And then AndhaDhun ends up making $4,500 per screen!!!!!! That’s better than a Hindi films has done since maybe Sanju! That’s a better opening weekend than Stree had! And that neatly puts AndhaDhun at the top of the heap for all Indian films in America this week.
(Not for nothing, I think it also had a better soundtrack than everything else out this week)
In America, there is one other factor. Monday was a holiday for some people (not for me, but for some). These figures don’t include Monday, so it isn’t a 3 day weekend bump that way. But possibly the Sunday night shows were fuller than they would have been otherwise because people didn’t have to get up in the morning. Even allowing for that, this is still a shockingly impressive box office take.
What’s really interesting is the way the numbers go up and down around the world. In Canada it only released on 3 screens (too many Punjabi movies), but it made over $7,000 per screen. In the UK, it got 30 screens and made $1,600 per screen. Which isn’t terrible for the UK. In Australia, it was on 16 screens and made $3,500 per screen, which is terrible for Australia. In New Zealand, it only made $1,100 per screen. In Malaysia, it made almost $3,000 per screen which is very good for a no stars Hindi film in Malaysia.
So, once again, the global audience is not united. In America, a high concept black comedy with familiar but not spectacular stars was extremely popular. In the UK, it was moderately popular. In Australia and New Zealand, not at all.
They aren’t united in the second week films either, Sui Dhaaga is still doing shockingly badly in America, about $1,300 per screen in the second week. Really not good for a Yash Raj picture with all that promotion behind it, and clearly they weren’t expecting this either because it is still on 114 screens. But in Canada, it’s doing $2,500 per screen on 18 screens, not great but also not that bad for a second week, especially competing with major Punjabi releases. It’s doing okay in Australia too, $2,000 per screen in the second week, again competing with Punjabi films. But it’s doing terribly in the UK, traditionally Yash Raj’s best market, about $850 per screen.
Loveratri though, it unites the whooooooooole world. Everyone in the world looks at it and goes “eh”. $1,300 per screen in America, $1,800 per screen in Canada, $1,200 per screen in the UK (besides New Zealand, that’s the best, the UK box office is always pretty low and $1,200 is respectable), $1,500 per screen in Australia, and then the one really bright spot, $4,000 per screen in New Zealand. The box office isn’t the worst I have ever seen, but it also isn’t good. Except in New Zealand, for some reason they looooooooooove it in New Zealand. WHY?????
(Is there some strange fetish for men whose faces don’t move?)
So, what does this tell us? Well, black comedy is IN! In America and in India, but not necessarily everywhere else. And big name stars are out, they almost look like a detriment to a film instead of a benefit. Stree did great with a clever youth oriented plot and concept and actors who were known as good actors, but not as major celebrities. And now AndhaDhun has done the same thing.
It also tells us that it is better to be a producer of a small clever movie than a big one. And better to be the theater owner who takes it. The profits must be enormous for those lucky folks behind Stree and AndhaDhun, without having to pay big star rates they are getting close to big star box offices. In two weeks, we will watch Ayushmann’s next comedy Badhaai Ho release opposite Namaste England and see if the pattern holds.
(Speaking of Namaste, here is the newest trailer. I like the new plot info, showing that it will really look at the experience of illegal immigrants, and that there will be a lighthearted twist and love triangle, but oh my gosh this trailer is terribly edited!!!!! Or else it is a truly awful movie, but I don’t think that is it, the way the music is thrown in the background and swells and fades at random tells me it might just be the trailer)