Box Office Report: Manikarnika Makes Negligible Money

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)

Oh boy, box office numbers!!!! I’ll start in America. First, Uri. Again. Still. In week 3! It’s still on 107 screens, which is very VERY high for week 3. And making $4,700 per screen. Which is ludicrously high for week 3. Uri is still the highest earning Indian film in America this week, as it has been the last two weeks.

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.

Image result for manikarnika poster

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.

In honor of Thackeray, let us all watch the ending of Bombay.

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.

Also, how is the head of the censor board still allowed to write dialogue for movies he is censoring?????

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.

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9 thoughts on “Box Office Report: Manikarnika Makes Negligible Money

  1. There was a Twitter trend this morning Uri v/s Manikarnika or something. I was like who pitched them against each other. Turns out the right wing trolls are too lazy to do separate promotions for these movies.So they created this trend to promote them together. One of the right wing leaders even chided NDTV for not giving good ratings for both movies. I want to watch Uri cos it seems to be a well made movie but this kind of promotions is putting me off. Gone are the days when you could go to a movie and forget the crazy world that we live in.

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    • Purely in terms of film quality, this really says something about which movie is better made. If the same trolls are promoting them both, and they have the same patriotic feeling to sell them, and so on and so on, then it is a completely level playing field in every way but film quality and Uri is wiping the floor with Manikarnika.

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  2. I’m so tired of this Manikarnika drama, and I think many people are too, that’s why it’s not doing as good as predicted. I feel this movie has nothing to offer beside drama, and a lot of Kangana.

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    • Yeah, even the favorable reviews are talking more about Kangana’s performance than the Spectacle of it. And it seems like for this kind of movie to really drive in an audience, they need to be promised a spectacle.

      On Wed, Jan 30, 2019 at 10:26 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Ironically, my take on the movie is the opposite.

        The spectacle was pretty good, though it could have been better with a bigger budget and more dev tinge and less politics on set. I enjoyed the costunes, set design, art direction, and war scenes / action sequences.

        But I felt that Kanganas performance was extremely one-note. Yes she was completely committed tho the role, not overacting or underacting. But there was no flavor or nuance to her performance at all, just bravado. And it’s great to see a woman doing a bravado role, but it’s still doesn’t captivate.

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        • Yes, that “bravado”! It’s a particular skill to give that kind of performance, but if this is going to be a layered film, it needs more to it. The first thing I thought of with her performance was Vivien Leigh in Gone With the Wind, which was similarly charismatic and entertaining, but without a ton of nuance. Which is why she was surrounded by all the other characters who helped give the film a feeling of depth.

          On Wed, Jan 30, 2019 at 3:38 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  3. It’s also competing with Jhansi ki Rani season 1 on Netflix. It’s a Tv serial from 2009 which I think Netflix recently picked up. Unlike the movie, it really delves into the supporting characters.

    Another way to look at it is, how is this movie doing vs other solo female lead films? Clearly worse than Queen and Dirty Picture and English Vingkish and Raazi, but how were those two doing in their first week? How is it doing vs Hitchki ahs Tunhari Sulu? These are other ways to judge if it’s a hit in a subjective sense.

    I went to a 10pm show last night and it was sold out, our group of three could only get front row seats. And people stayed for the entire end credits. Of course it was Discount Tuesday’s around here, many theaters run tickets for $5 all day. Not sure if tonight’s full price show will also be sold out, though MoviePass helps with that.

    My subjective pov is that this is a modest hit. The negative publicity – both the movie production hiccups and kangana herself – really did a number on it. One of our group of three was literally being BEGGED by her sister in India to NOT see the film, she kept sending her articles about what kangana did to film production and being her to boycott. That kind of negative backlash is extreme, usually reserved stateside for Mel Gibson films lol. It definitely has a misogynistic component because when Aamir takes over directing, recasting, or rebooting a film, we hardly hear about it.

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    • Thank you for explaining where the Jhansi Ki Rani TV was coming from! When I am looking for news or images, I keep running across it and I couldn’t figure out why. If it just hit Netflix, explains the reburst of interest.

      Thanks for the suggestions, I was trying to think last night of a movie I could compare it with and coming up blank. Hichki did about the same per screen, but released on half as many screens and not on a holiday weekend. But I forgot about Raazi, AND it released the same weekend as Mahanati, so there are two really good comparisons. Raazi came out on 110 screens and made over $6,000 per screen. Mahanati came out on 145 screens and made $5,800 per screen. Both of them female lead historical films with no big names in the cast (if we accept that Dulquer wasn’t big in Tamil and Telugu, Alia is about the same as Kangana now). But they were also both really good and different movies, ones that immediately gained the attention of the audience with the look of them and the word of mouth. Plus they had very very good promotion campaigns, solid trailers and songs and interviews with people about the true story and so on.

      So I would say it is making about half as much money as is theoretically possible, if it had the kind of promotion and word of mouth that Mahanati or Raazi got. As historical films with epic stories with female leads and no big names in the cast and modest screen counts, they both proved per screen takes around $6,000 are possible. Plus that was two major films releasing opposite each other on a non-holiday weekend, so $6,000 is possible, even higher screen counts and per screen might have been within grasp since Manikarnika had nothing similar to compete with.

      I’m torn with the misogynistic backlash. Because sure, misogyny is always an element to everything. But I really don’t think I have any internalized misogyny within myself, and I also find what Kangana has done as far far worse than what I have heard about any other star, male of female. So I don’t want to play into a misogynistic narrative, but I also have to be honest about what I am seeing myself. But can it really be separated? For instance, I don’t think Krish would have been given the kind of platform to speak and the attention he got if he was talking about a male star. So that’s misogyny. But on the other hand, I also think what he is describing is extreme and unlike anything we have seen from another star, and I do pay attention to the stories that don’t get that kind of platform. It’s confusing.

      But I definitely don’t think it is a boycott situation, not for Kangana’s actions. I would much sooner boycott the film for political reasons than just to “show her” for trying to take over. On the other hand, if someone said “don’t see the movie because based on what I have heard, I suspect it isn’t worth you watching, it sounds like it got chopped up in editing”, than that’s not a boycott, but is also because of the story coming out. The cause and result are the same, it is just the motivation that is different, and I can understand the motivation of “this interview makes me think it just won’t be a very fun movie to watch”, but not a “I hate her so don’t watch it” motivation.

      On Wed, Jan 30, 2019 at 10:45 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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