Global Box Office: Kesari Ke-Sucks

That title is a bit harsh. More accurate would be “Kesari Ke-Disappoints Based on Past Performance of Similar Films Although in Isolation it Appears to Be Doing Quite Well”. But that’s not as snappy. (figures from bollywoodhungama)

I didn’t really want Kesari to do well, I am just so sick of war movies and it seems like that is all people are making these days. So I was nervous looking at the box office report, and low and behold, right at the start, the American market gave me hope! 145 screens and only $3,800 per screen. Don’t get me wrong, that is a very good per screen average for that number of screens. If Badla had done that kind of business, I would have been proud of it. But we are talking about an historic epic, with a top star, and a major studio, and a big promotion campaign. Oh, and a holiday weekend. A bad holiday (Holi isn’t a big one for getting families together and stuff), but still a Thursday release and a 4 day weekend. The screen count isn’t all it could be, and the per screen definitely isn’t. For comparison, last week Badla made $3,100 per screen on 115 screens. That’s within spitting distance of how Kesari is doing, for a low budget no big stars movie on a non-holiday weekend and the second week of its run.

Image result for kesari poster

Let’s skip right to the other Kesari market highlights, Canada and Australia. Both places love action movies, and love Punjabi movies, and this combines the two, so it should be doing spectacular. Canada, 33 screens and $8,400 per screen. Australia, 49 screens and $6,000 per screen. Now, that would be impressive for other markets, but I’ve seen both those countries break $10,000 per screen. And this film should have done that, if anything would. It’s perfectly tailored for their taste.

And meanwhile, Badla is chugging along on 97 screens and $2,000 per screen in the US, 12 screens and $2,800 in Canada, 25 screens and $800 in the UK, and 31 screens and $1,200 in Australia. This is not great or notable or spectacular, but it is very solid for a 3rd week.

For theaters, everything is pretty good. Kesari didn’t take a huge number of screens, and is making a solid profit on the ones it has. Badla is making a nice bit of money even in week 3 and on a high number of screens. Even Gully Boy is still chugging along. So Kesari isn’t breaking $4,000 per screen in America or $10,000 in Australia, so what? It’s also not losing money. And Holi isn’t one of those weekends you count on for your quarterly profits.

Image result for gully boy poster
Valentine’s Day is, and since Gully Boy was such a spectacular hit, theaters are going to be fine.

But for producers, this is a big problem. I don’t know what the Kesari budget was, but with the battle scenes and Akshay in the cast and the kind of promotion we were seeing everywhere, it can’t have been cheap. A decent profit isn’t going to cut it. I don’t think they will see a loss, but they aren’t going to see much of a bump. And Dharma needs that bump right now. They are going all in on the epics, which means massive amounts of cash upfront for costumes and sets and all the rest of the stuff you see onscreen.

It’s not just Dharma, the whole industry is going after these big films right now, there’s Panipat and Shamshera coming up too. And it makes sense, you have to roll with the times, the audience is responding to epic films right now so that’s what everyone is making. But it’s not the same as switching from action to romance, because action and romance have about the same price tag. This is switching to a genre that comes with built in higher costs. It may not be worthwhile, even if it is easier to get the audience in, because you are making a much greater gamble on the success of your film.

Not to mention that “epic” usually also indicates “rare”. We just had Manikarnika, which did far worse than Kesari, two months ago. And now another historical epic, Kalank, is opening in just 3 weeks. It doesn’t feel special to the audience any more, it doesn’t feel like an event, that part of the appeal is gone.

Image result for kalank poster
another Dharma film too. If this does the same as Kesari, they will be fine. But if it flops, there won’t be enough Kesari profits to cover it.

And now let’s look at Badla. The mystery-thriller genre is one that the audience has not indicated a particular interest in, it is not the flavor of the week. But it is cheap-cheap-cheap, in every way. If you get a good story, then you don’t need big name actors, or a big promotion, you can just leak enough of the story to get the audience intrigued no matter who is in the film or how it is promoted. And if you have a good director, you don’t need expensive visuals or special effects, you let the camera create the excitement. Making a film like this is not going with the trends or the times and you run a real risk of having a flop. But on the other hand, even if it flops, you haven’t lost much money. And if it hits, it will almost all be pure profit.

We are still working through our “epics” period, there are so many films in production right now that it will last at least another year and a half even if everything starts flopping. But I have to think producers are going to start looking at the bottom line, realizing they just can’t afford these kinds of films unless the profit is 100% guaranteed. And it just makes more business sense to take a risk on something like Andhadhun or Badhai Ho or Badla than on another Kesari or Thugs or Manikarnika.

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14 thoughts on “Global Box Office: Kesari Ke-Sucks

  1. Great point about “epic” movies not being that special anymore. I hope they will stop doing this kind of movies because, first: it’s boring; second: they are not Rajamouli and are not able to recreate the magic (even hiring Baahubali scriptwriters like in Manikarnika, or copying most iconic scenes like in Kalank).
    And I find it funny everybody does epics now if the best movies lately were those simple “low-cost” stories like Baadhai Ho.

    Liked by 2 people

    • and a movie like Badhai Ho (or Badla or Luka Chuppi or Raid or Stree) isn’t exhausting for the audience either. At the end of a 3 hour epic, I am exhausted. Trying to remember all the character names and relationships, following the battle sequences, and just the pure spectacle you have to look at, it’s a lot more work than a smaller film. I could watch another Badhai Ho ever week, I really only have the energy for a Bahubaali or Thugs once ever few months.

      On Wed, Mar 27, 2019 at 11:42 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • The only epic I care is Panipat, and that’s only because Arjun Kapoor is in it, and he needs a hit badly now. But I’m anxious because it must be very very good to impress, already tired of historicals, people, and A. Gowariker hasn’t had a hit since 2008. Also Arjun wasn’t at his best lately. We’ll see.

        I don’t care about any of other epics, and must admit I lost count how many of them are being done, and who is in which one.

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        • I lost count too! I completely forgot about Kalank until the trailers and songs started releasing. I think I will just count on that with the others, by the time the release is getting close the PR will remind me, and I can ignore them until then.

          On Wed, Mar 27, 2019 at 4:36 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • I must admit, till last week I was sure Kalank is Karan Johar movie. I knew he is doing some epic movie, his favourite actress in it, and he was tweeting a lot about it, so I was 100% sure he is the director.

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          • Just the producer I guess. No one can do everything.

            On Wed, Mar 27, 2019 at 4:52 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. I am just annoyed with all the movies with uber nationalist vibes, as its nearing election time. It’s not even historically correct. It’s super ridiculous that they are pumping saffron into Sikhs, when it doesn’t even go there.

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  3. These nationalist movies are the worst things that have happened to BW movies. Utter and complete trash. It makes me not want to watch anything. It seems all we ever get lately is these jingoistic movies mixed up with other masala crap like Simba.

    I didn’t even like Badhai Ho. I was bored to tears. I just don’t get this kind of comedy. Andhadhun also derailed towards the end although I liked most of it. Slim pickings.

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    • Well, it’s not a flop. It’s doing good box office and all that, it’s just that the budget was so high, and I can’t imagine it is living up to expectations.

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  4. Holi was a holiday only in India so how would Kesari get a boost as a holiday release in the US? Also Badla had AB in the lead so how do you call it as having “no big stars”?

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    • As I said, Kesari released on Thursday. And Holi is still a cultural holiday for the diaspora. And AB, sadly, is no longer a major star.

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  5. I don’t understand your title Kesari Ke-sucks? Is it just an alliteration?
    About the epic films I think the film makers hope that it has repeat value for the audience if it’s a hit. Let’s face it, however good an Andhadun or Badla maybe, once you know the twist you would not watch it again, definitely not in theatres.

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    • I don’t know maybe it’s just me then but usually I re-watch films with huge plot twists because knowing the plot twist gives me a new perspective on the film

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