I was gonna say “no money”, that would have been catchier, but inaccurate. It didn’t make no money, it just didn’t make impressive money. (numbers from bollywoodhungama)
And then we come to Manikarnika. 127 screens, which is about what I would expect. 80ish is standard for your lessor known mid-budget films, your minor Akshay Kumar releases and your Shubh Mangal Saavdhans. 120-150 is more your major Akshay Kumar releases (he makes SO MANY MOVIES!), and your Varun Dhawan blockbusters post-2016. So, this is about right. Padmavat, with a big historical spectacle and a well-known director and cast and massive publicity campaign, released on around 300 screens a year ago. Manikarnika doesn’t have a big star cast or a well-known director, and the promotion campaign was just WEIRD, so 127 screens is about right.
And on those 127 screens, it made $3,600 per screen. Which is not great. Although it is all about grading on a curve, Kangana’s last film, Simran, was 86 screens and only about $2,000 per screen. So this movie came out on more screens and is making more per screen. Only, besides Kangana, the two films have nothing in common. Manikarnika is trying to follow in the footsteps of Bajirao and Padmavat and Bahubali. And by those standards, it is making way way too little money. It’s hard to know if this box office is good or bad, because it’s the first of these kind of ripoff historicals we have had. Maybe after all the others role out, $3,600 per screen on 127 screens will look good. Right now, it’s not great. Although, again, not totally disastrous. Just sort of unimportant.
Although there are two other elements to consider. First, this is Republic Day weekend. There is usually a holiday weekend bounce that I would expect a film like Manikarnika to benefit from. But, nope! Oh, and also it is freezing out. Not everywhere in America, but in a lot of places. On the other hand, Uri! So I guess the weather didn’t make much difference. And maybe the Republic Day bounce went to it.
Speaking of Republic Day releases, let me gently stick my finger in the gooey vomit puddle that is Thackeray. 43 screens in America, $1,500 per screen. I could wish it was much much lower, or that it didn’t even exist, but then it could also have been worse. In Canada, $8,000 per screen, but only one one screen (yaaaay!). UK didn’t release it. Australia and New Zealand, $1,200 and $800 per screen on 24 and 5 screens. But then, the Australian and New Zealand markets go for action and spectacle, so a biopic of anybody was going to be a hard sell. Oh well, I still feel better.
Oh right, Manikarnika global figures. 25 screens in Canada (very high for Canada, but then Padmavat and the other history epics did great there), but only $4,000 per screen (low for Canada). 56 screens in the UK, also very high, and about $1,300 per screen. Australia, 33 screens and $4,500 screens. New Zealand, 15 screens and $3,500 per screen.
So, what is this saying? In America, expectations were for a midlevel film (not 80, but not 300 screens either). And the box office is midlevel too, a rousing “eh”. In the other markets, slightly higher expectations, those are slightly more than films usually get, although still less than the very biggest numbers. And even more of an “eh” reaction. Which says that the interest was the same across markets, just that the ones with higher screen counts ended up having smaller per screen takes. If America had been down to 80 screens it might have been able to crack the $4,000 per screen limit.
There has been a lot of debate about whether Manikarnika is really a flop or a hit. I can’t speak to Indian numbers, because there is nothing reliable for me to work with there. But looking at the global numbers, here is my analysis.
It had a holiday weekend, a big historic epic look to it, a familiar story, and a semi-big star in the lead. And yet the screen count ended up being lower than a holiday release would indicate (remember that Cheat India moved out of fear of conflicting with it, that’s how big this was supposed to be). And the per screen ticket count is okay, but not impressive either.
So my take on it is a combination. First that the actual release of it wasn’t right, something went wrong and the promotions kind of fell apart and theaters weren’t rushing to take the film, and distributors weren’t pushing it. That’s why you see this slightly surprisingly low screen count. Second, the film itself, both word of mouth reviews and the excitement based on what was known in advance, wasn’t enough to drag people in despite the lack of big promotions and screen count. That’s why you see the tepid box office per screen.
I am trying to imagine two alternate universes. First, one in which I had no idea of the background of this film and was just looking at the release figures. I think I would still reach this conclusion? 127 is low, Gold which was also a holiday release with only one star released on 165 screens. And that was with a less familiar story and genre than Manikarnika. And here’s the thing that really stands out, Uri in week 3 ADDED screens. Because theaters were so reluctant to take Manikarnika, the new release. And yes, Uri is doing very well, but that’s still something, that it is gaining screens rather than those going to Manikarnika. And then there is the $3,600 per screen. Again, I think I would have noticed that? For Kedarnath, I said $3,000 was “respectable” for a film that had no big publicity campaign and not much attention. So I would have noticed $3,600 per screen on only 127 screens for a film that was supposed to be the big holiday release.
And then the second universe, in which Manikarnika released without controversy. Uri shows that a well-made film with a patriotic topic and no stars can do good business based primarily on word of mouth. Bajirao showed a historic film could have a spectacular release based on the images more than the well-known cast. We have no way of knowing for sure (short of some kind of parallel universe machine), but perhaps if the original Krish cut of the film had released, the one that might have gotten the kind of crazy buzz some of his previous films have gained, combined with the patriotic topic and release date and Hindi star, and a smooth release which producer involvement to entice more screens, then perhaps it could have done far far better.
At least, that is what I am seeing. Looking only at global numbers, and using my own analysis, this is not a hit nor a flop. It’s just bleh. You can feel free to disagree.