Global Box Office: The Audience Rebels against the YRF Empire, Declares Themselves FREE of Thugs of Hindostan

This is so exciting!  A big box office story after far too long!  And all over the world, America to Germany to Malaysia, everywhere is interesting!  Well, if you are a number obsessed person like me. (as always, numbers from bollywoodhungama)

Let’s start with some basic information factors to keep in mind:

1. Thugs released on a record number of screens worldwide.  Meaning the overall box office is skewed based on things like “there is no other movie playing in this theater so I have to watch Thugs“.

2. Thugs released on IMAX, meaning the ticket prices were automatically greatly increased.  Based on my market, even if you didn’t want to watch it in IMAX, you might have been forced too because it was easier to find on an IMAX screen than regular, essentially putting a gun to your head to make you to pay more money for something you didn’t need/want.

3. The newer markets have a built in increase in tickets and guarantee of a certain number of audience desperate for the rare Indian film on the big screen.  In places where it was only playing thanks to the very wide release, an Indian film would be a special event and theaters could both force people to pay more money, and force them to reserve seats in advance before word of mouth and other information filtered out.

4. It released on a holiday weekend, especially important for sales in places where there is no other way to celebrate Diwali.  In places in the world where Diwali is not a major holiday (so, everywhere except South Asia) the easiest way to celebrate is just to go to a special movie with your family, since there are no parties or religious events necessarily available for you.

 

All of these factors are specific to the international market.  Yash Raj and Aamir Khan are kings of the international market, and they definitely released the film in this particular way keeping all these elements in mind.  Diwali might even be better than Christmas just because of the lack of competition for screens.  IMAX is far more important internationally than in India (where there are fewer IMAX screens and you can raise tickets just randomly instead of needing IMAX as an excuse).  And newer markets are very good for both Aamir and YRF, if you are the first one in there you can build brand loyalty for years to come, and you can guarantee a certain boost based on the curiosity factor alone.

Image result for thugs of hindostan poster

 

Let’s start with the steadiest market, America.  Thugs released on 335 screens in America, which is very very high but not unheard of.  Releases of this level (Tiger Zinda Hai, Sanju, Padmavat) regularly average around 300 screens.  The IMAX release is a little less common, so figure an increased ticket cost versus what Hindi films of this level usually do.  And with all of that in mind, look at the per screen box office: $2,578.

In this case, the midweek release actually severely damaged the box office.  Those figures are for the weekend only.  There was an additional $193,245 collected on Thursday.  I’m going to assume (based on what was the case in my market) that there were far fewer screens on Thursday, simply because the Hollywood films released on Friday making it difficult to adjust the schedule and free the screens.  And a midweek release is difficult in America unless there is a holiday, since we all have to work the next day.  But even so, I am going to guess that enough people saw the film on Thursday, both in America and India, to warn off the weekend viewers in America.  If opening night was Friday, then the maximum number of screens and audience members would have been available before word of mouth spread.  This is the same factor that usually drives Aamir’s box office up and up in America, the midweek release is enough for the GOOD word of mouth to spread and lead to an even bigger weekend than at home.

Aamir’s last film, Secret Superstar, did not do that good in America, but still did better than this.  It also released on a far fewer number of screens with far less promotion.  All of which is a sign that Aamir does not have the pure star power and name recognition in America that the other two Khans do, and he knows it.  This film was calculated to be a big family holiday hit, something people would see just because it was there and it was a holiday.  And with the IMAX ticket prices added on, there was a surety that it would set records.  What was not expected was that the word of mouth would be so incredibly destructive that it would overwhelm all the other factors and turn the midweek release from an advantage to a disadvantage.  Especially in America, a market that has shown itself to be very word-of-mouth aware (probably due to the same large desi population which makes it such a popular market), Stree and Andhadhun and Badhai Ho riding high on good word of mouth and Race 3 sinking.

Now, let’s look at the very other end of things, Germany.  Thugs released on 50 screens in Germany, which is very very high for that market.  And it made a solid $1,100 per screen which is also very high for that market.  In Germany, word of mouth is not a factor.  First because tickets would have been reserved and sold in advance.  Second because the audience community is more cut off from from word of mouth, because of smaller and more isolated pockets.  If Thugs had released 20 years ago when the diaspora was more spread out, and the internet hadn’t brought people so close, it would have done the same all over the world as it did in Germany.  In a way Germany is a little time capsule showing is what would have been.  And not so coincidentally, 20 years ago is when YRF first started it’s international domination and discovered the strategies that work for the global market.

Image result for bollywood germany

(Shahrukh in Germany, being mobbed by the German fans who are desperate for any touch of India)

 

Most other markets fall somewhere in between these two extremes.  Canada, 37 screens (very high for that market) and only $6,102 per screen.  Which is low for Canada opening weekends that regular crack past $8,000, especially with IMAX prices for this film.  But Canada isn’t quite as flooded a market as America, again the word of mouth would be less painful.  More isolated communities buying tickets in advance just for the rare chance of seeing a movie on the big screen, fewer word of mouth sources.

The UK was a little more like America.  YRF went heavy there, the UK is also their home market, where they have found their greatest success.  And the use of British actors, and softening of the criticism of the British, was another advantage in that market.  YRF went very heavy for the UK, 175 screens, which is not something that is seen often unlike the 300+ in America.  And the end result was $2,081 per screen.  The UK per screen is usually horrible, so $2,081 isn’t as bad as there as it would be in other places.  But based on the screen count, YRF had very high expectations which were not met.

Now, let’s look at Australia.  Usually a good market for action films, and would also get that little British Commonwealth boost like the UK.  Thugs did well there as well, $7,000 per screen on 71 screens.  But still not as good as it could, Australia hits regularly top out at $10,000 per screen, and that is without the IMAX boost.

 

And then there’s the overall global numbers.  Thugs had the 4th highest opening weekend of the year, behind Sanju and Padmavat.  It made slightly less than Race 3, and one crore less than Sanju and half of what Padmavat made.  It made about 2/3rds of what Dhoom 3 made in opening weekend.  And, the really fascinating one to me, only slightly more than Talaash.

Related image

(Talaash.  In the 6 years since it’s release, Aamir has broken box office records, multiplexes have taken over India, and ticket prices all over the world have crept up and up.  And yet this small film with a strong cast and story and look to it made almost as much money opening weekend as Thugs)

 

I can see where the Thugs figures came from, the pure number of screens meant a decent overall profit even in places like the USA.  And the UK, Australia, they were average if not a total flop.  And so if you look at the overall global box office, it still appears to be a hit.  The problem is, it isn’t the BIGGEST hit.  It was positioned to follow up Dhoom 3, anything less than that is a failure, and it was far far less than that.  Once you add in all the manipulation YRF did, from IMAX releases to screen count, Thugs becomes somewhat embarrassing.

Padmavat is what it should have been, an IMAX release with good overseas market appeal and a very wide release.  That’s the model YRF was looking at, an Event film with the overpriced tickets that implies.  To not even do better than Race 3 is a severe embarrassment.  Especially since Race 3 was a far worse movie objectively speaking in every way, and with a fare smaller promotion campaign.  It shows that YRF was foolish to bet on Aamir’s star power and audience loyalty, and on the whole period action adventure genre, instead of on Salman and the regular modern action film.

Sanju, that was the usual Aamir film, a strong simple story idea that would attract the audience, a “high quality” stamp to bring in the audience that would normally turn their noses up at Hindi film.  And with an elaborate marketing campaign.  Even that did not do as well as other Aamir-style films have done, although it still did very well, perhaps showing that the global audience was beginning to be tired of this style of film.

The film I find most interesting in terms of global box office this year is Baaghi 2.  It did not get an IMAX release, it did not get an insane number of screens, it did not get a crazy marketing strategy, and it did not have a major name brand studio (YRF, Dharma, Excel) behind it.  And yet it did very well.  Similarly Talaash years ago was Aamir’s last solid hit without a crazy marketing strategy and screen push.

(Even the Baaghi 2 songs weren’t that remarkable.  It was a hit purely because the audience wanted to watch this movie)

The overseas market can be manipulated, sometimes more easily than the at home market.  And the challenge is to carve out the manipulation and see what is left.  Once that is done for Thugs, what I am left with is a general excitement over seeing a Hindi film on an opening holiday weekend, and not much else.  Nothing specific to THIS FILM that made people excited.  YRF could have released any other film this weekend in the same way and gotten the same response.  It was a matter of simply filling in the blank in the marketing strategy memo with the title of the film.

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19 thoughts on “Global Box Office: The Audience Rebels against the YRF Empire, Declares Themselves FREE of Thugs of Hindostan

    • Yes indeed, unless Shahrukh and Aanand L Rai do a sudden reversal of their publicity and make it more “this is a small human story, we had fun making it and hope you enjoy watching it” instead of “TO THE MOON!!!!”

      In terms of box office, like I said it is America that really really suffered, and also seems to be the place most hooked in to internet culture, especially Indian internet culture. So that anger online could be a part of driving the box office even further down here.

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      • Maybe it’s just me but I really don’t think people pay that much attention to how a movie is publicized. The trailer matters more than anything else and the TOH trailer was an abomination. The same was true of Race 3. But a big difference is that Salman has a die hard fan base that will turn out for the worst movies but Aamir does not have that kind of stardom.

        The level of ridicule Race 3 got was so much higher than TOH. Even with lesser theaters and the movie bombing, it will still make more money than TOH. The same is true for Dilwale, which was also trashed and also had a huge clash to deal with unlike the others, but managed to save itself through the overseas collections.

        Whatever the reason, I am glad such terrible movies are flopping. YRF in particular is the worst production house ever and consistently makes garbage and supports directors like Victor. They needed a wake-up call. However, I am afraid it won’t make any difference because they won’t feel the monetary pinch themselves because of how the system is set up. They will be back to the same old crap next year. Another crap is already waiting in the wings – the Hrithik and Tiger movie directed by Siddharth Anand.

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        • I think how a movie is publicized it’s not something you consciously notice, but it’s there subconsciously. Stuff like noticing standees in theater lobbies, or that the trailer has a big dramatic build up music to the title, or that suddenly the title is everywhere on social media. Race 3 and TOH were both promoted as these big big movies, like once a year kind of movies through all those subtle cues. Versus something like Badhai Ho that had the silly little theme song and not that many posters and never trended on twitter, was really truly just the trailer and the content of the trailer.

          Anyway, absolutely agree about the fan base signs. Now I can’t remember who it was, but someone said in an interview recently that it is the flops that show how big a star you are, how big the box office is even for a bad film. Salman and Shahrukh can still squeak by on loyal fans alone, even for the worst films. Aamir is doing so much worse.

          The thing with YRF is that it used to make really good films and I think it has been coasting on that for years. The original Dhoom, for instance, was small and fun and clever. And then Dhoom 2 and 3 were different kind of films but they had the same title so YRF could coast along. Tiger Zinda Hai versus Ek Tha Tiger. YRF has a whole business plan of taking risks on a few films but mostly filling in the scheduled with guaranteed hits that aren’t necessarily that interesting.

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    • Not necessarily. One of the big differences between overseas and at home is the word of mouth that can spread literally with hours. Between the time it released well in India and flopped in America, it is possible the Indian audience warned the American one. Heck, maybe that’s all the difference in box office is, the Americans had 6-7 more hours to hear how bad it was than the Brits.

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  1. I think with Zero if they manage to get out all the awkward parts out initially, it’ll be OK (as long as the movie isn’t bad). It gives people time to get used to it (like Anushka’s speech). And then they save the better parts for the real movie.
    What happened with TOH is the ticket prices are lose to 500 Rs, which is insane! YRF made sure to get a 10-15% hike on top of Sanju’s ticket prices, so people are annoyed that they had to shell this much money for a bad movie. And there wasn’t another option. In my family we had the tradition of going for a movie every Onam, and lots of families do that. So you’re shelling close to 2500-3000 Rs for a movie. Then add parking, popcorn etc and that works to be very expensive.

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    • You are a genius. That’s all it is, that’s the difference between disappointment and anger, the money. If it was regular holiday ticket prices and not that good of a movie, people would be disappointed but forget about it. If you are forced to spend that much money and the movie isn’t worth it, then you get angry.

      So all Zero has to do to avoid that reaction is release at something approaching regular ticket prices.

      On Mon, Nov 12, 2018 at 8:26 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

      >

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      • Thank you!! 😀
        Also, the general feeling that Yrf is a little arrogant. It usually goes unnoticed as long as you’re successful. But nowall that pent up frustration and snark is coming out. Bet Dharma is getting a little nervous too.

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        • I have my fingers crossed that Zero tickets won’t be that expensive. And I think, from all 3 big Khan movies, Zero has the best trailer. I wasn’t reading much, but I didn’t see any bad or mocking comments, like it was with TOH and Race. So there is hope, even if I’m sure many people can’t wait to damage the movie only because SRK is in it.

          And I agree with Priya. It’s different when the makers give you the movie saying: go, watch it, it will be fun. And when they are like: I only want to squeeze as much money as I can from you, and don’t care about nothing else. In this case the product is not important anymore, only profit is. I know that show-business is business and films are made to earn money, but I like to think making a good product is more important.

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          • It’s the monopoly problem. People feel the same way about Microsoft and Netflix and all those companies when they raise their rates, or force you to buy a new product. It’s the lack of choice that eats away at you, especially when it feels like they are starting to take advantage of that lack of choice.

            One thing I just ran across in the Baazigar anniversary coverage, it released with 3 other equally big movie. And became a hit because people chose it over the other two. Very different from today when there is only one choice each week.

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    • I think non-desi reviewers usually give Hindi films good reviews? It’s tricky, because if there is no context, it’s hard to make a value judgement. For instance, pointing out Amitabh’s gravitas and solid performance. Which is true, but in the context of Amitabh’s career, it’s not as remarkable as it could be,

      Anyway, I am in the same boat when reviewing non-Hindi films, it’s really hard! Part of the reason I like blogging, because I’m allowed to say “I think” “I feel” “I don’t know but maybe” instead of taking a leap into the unknown and trying to judge definitively.

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  2. I don’t think anyone enjoys flops more than the media does. Currently Zoom TV is running stories about how YRF/Aamir distributed tickets themselves to make the 1st day record. I just roll my eyes at the Indian media because it’s hard to believe half the things they say.
    BW Hungama also has come up with odd articles like this –
    http://www.bollywoodhungama.com/news/bollywood/katrina-kaif-conned-aamir-khan-vijay-krishna-archarya-thugs-hindostan/
    As if Katrina was not aware of whatever she was signing up for. Strange.

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    • Ugh, I saw that BH article. It’s nothing on top of nothing.

      I think the only thing the media likes more than flops is hits. But nothing in between. Which is terrible for the industry! Solid films like Andhadhun and Stree and Badhai Ho get tepid coverage, while “record breaking hits” and “massive flops” get days and days of articles. And it encourages the studios to shoot for the hits since just a solid film doesn’t get the attention.

      Like

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