Box Office Overseas: Kabir Singh Fails to Impress, Shadaa Soars

Huh. This is an odd interesting week at the box office. A Punjabi film tying with a Hindi film that is setting records in India. (as always, figures from bollywoodhungama)

Top Indian film in America, Kabir Singh. Next top film, Shadaa from the Punjabi industry. In Canada, Shadaa then Kabir Singh. In the UK, Kabir Singh then Shadaa. Australia, Kabir Singh then Shadaa. New Zealand, Kabir Singh then Shadaa. What an interesting pattern!

Image result for kabir singh poster

Kabir Singh is an A rated film, the most adult possible rating for the Indian censors. And the posters, trailers, everything declared that this is an adult movie not for children. Common wisdom is that you can’t get a really high box office without appealing to families, and yet Kabir Singh is doing decent business overseas and phenomenal business in India. I suspect just by bringing in the young male audience.

Which is the same thing Uri did earlier this year. It looks like, as streaming services grow and ticket prices rise, the male audience is the only one in theaters in India. Men have far more mobility in public spaces in India than women do, if one person in the family is going to get a ticket (because tickets are too expensive for everyone to go together), it will be the young man. The women and children are safely tucked at home watching streaming films while the men go off to the theaters.

But, what about overseas? Shadaa is giving it serious competition! And Shadaa is not a “young man” movie, it is a family wedding comedy. And Kabir Singh is doing very well for a Shahid Kapoor movie with adult content, but not the level of what it is doing in India. This is fascinating, right? The Indian audience is increasingly young male and so on, but the overseas audience is staying more family oriented.

Now, what are the raw numbers? Kabir Singh opened on 128 screens in America and is making $3,700 per screen, 16 screens in Canada and $10,000 per screen, 39 screens in the UK and $2,098 per screen, 36 screens in Australia and $6,654 per screen, 14 screens in New Zealand and $4,138 per screen. That’s on the high side for a minor release in terms of screens, and the high side for a non-star release in terms of box office. But it is nothing like what I’ve seen other similar films do.

Let’s make this a woman versus man thing! What fun! Veere Di Wedding, also not really a family film, also raunchy, also A rated, made TEN THOUSAND per screen in America. $8,000 per screen in both Australia and New Zealand, $3,000 per screen in the UK. And another ten thousand per screen in Canada, the same week a big Punjabi film opened.

Image result for veere di wedding poster
It made so much money, SO MUCH MONEY

Meanwhile, this week Shadaa is doing $2,545 per screen on 66 screens in America, $11,000 per screen on 26 screens in Canada, $4,800 per screen on 14 screens in the UK (pretty much the highest UK numbers since I can remember), $7,000 per screen on 28 screens in Australia, $7,000 per screen on 10 screens in New Zealand.

So, what are we seeing in overseas numbers? Kabir is a modest hit, the big story of the week in terms of exceeding expectations is Shadaa. And more generally, we are seeing that these male oriented films overseas do not have half the penetration of female oriented movies.

This is why women want to leave India! So they can see movies! No really, the movie behavior is a symptom of larger social issues. A film like Veere Di Wedding is something you can see in the afternoon in the nice new theater you can drive to from your house in the suburbs, or after work at the downtown theater, without being worried about being harassed for being in public. Or being questioned by your family about what movie you are going to see and why. You can go with your friends and laugh at jokes about female masturbation without feeling embarrassed, and then come back with your teenage daughter the next day. Or drag your husband along and not care if he is uncomfortable. It’s a whole world of freedom that is limited to men in India.

Which brings me back to Kabir Singh again. It’s mostly getting the young man audience in the West as well (I assume, at least that’s what my theater was like). But in the West, young men just aren’t that important of an audience. Something like Shadaa that will bring in the families will do better. And something like Veere Di Wedding that will bring in the women who drag along their husbands and older children will do far far better. And I will just keep reminding people that Veere Di Wedding did massive record breaking overseas business until someone else, somewhere, starts talking about it too instead of somehow forgetting that every happened.

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18 thoughts on “Box Office Overseas: Kabir Singh Fails to Impress, Shadaa Soars

  1. Kabir Singh has divided audience like never before between feminists who had problems with messaging and others who had no problems.
    Battle lines are drawn and Twitter /WhatsApp has become war room due to it.

    I agree film is deeply misogynist and has issues bt let it remain a movie and not cut/doesn’t it the way 1 wants it.

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  2. What I find interesting about Shadaa is my first impression is the hero is gay (it does seem the most plausible explanation for a late in life confirmed bachelor) …but is it actually about him living with a woman without being married? Or is it something else? That trailer confused me.

    Kabir Singh, woo, the controversy is indeed raging on twitter.

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    • The Shadaa trailer seems to jump around a bit in the plot, in order to end on a high note, so far as I can tell. He’s an unhappy bachelor, falls in love, the woman is difficult, he becomes a proud bachelor with lots of good lines and a fun song. But maybe the movie is more bachelor-bachelor-bachelor-falls in love-love triumphant?

      I am honestly surprised that Kabir Singh is so controversial, just because it is such a close remake of a film that was a bit of a crossover hit and very popular all over South India. So if there was controversy, I would have expected it to be burbling away since the remake was announced, not suddenly popping up now. Or at least present in a higher scale when the original released instead of suddenly only with the remake. The timing seems odd to me, is all. Especially since Arjun Reddy had a far better box office globally (first week https://dontcallitbollywood.com/2017/08/29/box-office-bareilly-ki-barfi-is-still-doing-sweet-arjun-reddy-is-astounding/ and second week https://dontcallitbollywood.com/2017/09/05/box-office-arjun-reddy-wins-by-default/), so way more people saw that film than this one.

      On Tue, Jun 25, 2019 at 11:47 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      Liked by 1 person

      • M, you believe that South Indian/ Punjabi movies are fairly considered as movie watching options for people in India who don’t know the language. I beg to differ; this forms a small minority of the audience. That’s one of the reasons why Arjun Reddy didn’t kick up a storm until it was remade in Hindi. Secondly, as pointed out by Baradwaj Rangan, Telugu cinema is so routinely misogynistic till date, that AR was considered ground breaking in many ways as the heroine seemed to have some agency.
        https://baradwajrangan.wordpress.com/2019/06/25/askbr-arjun-reddy-kabir-singh/

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        • It’s funny, a month before Arjun Reddy released, Fidaa came out, the other big surprise Telugu hit of 2017. Which had a female protagonist who decides her own life start to finish.

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          • There were discussion on Arjun Reddy also when it had come out.Lengthy articles were written,Quora discussion threads(at least 3 of them) were formed and there was even a big protest march by some women’s group against the movie.
            Parvathy’s opinion on Kasaba comes from a similar place of glorifying a flawed character and passing off male entitlement as entertainment.The kind of arguments and debates that are floating around for Kabir Singh is what we had witnessed in Kerala in 2017 after Parvathy’s comments.It lasted much longer and I believe the pro-woman movies(Uyare,Ishq,Kumbalangi Nights etc) coming out from Malayalam these days is because at least some few merit in her arguments.The misogynistic portrayals even in mass movies like Lucifer and Madhuraraja was dialled down.Sadly,unless the movie in question is Hindi,the voices and opinions do not get discussed or amplified-even in this blog,let alone Twitter.

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          • I don’t understand that last part. I mean, I understand what you are saying and I appreciate the background, but I wonder why it is? For my blog, I don’t really amplify opinions because I don’t read reviews or twitter, but I would expect that the comments on the reviews would bring up these points just as they do with Hindi films. And surely there are as many English speakers on twitter from the south as there are from the north?

            I would have thought the internet would have a flattening effect so feminists in the south would have as much presence on the English language parts of the internet as from the north. I am sure I am missing something that makes the difference but I don’t know what it is.

            On Thu, Jun 27, 2019 at 1:38 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Okay,so what I realise is that people tend to be in silos even on social media platforms.For example there is the Bolly Twitter which is all about Hindi movies and actors and related news. Now because all the people you follow are also Bolly fans,your feeds won’t have any news from say Tamil Twitter or Malayali Twitter or Telugu Twitter. I don’t hear anything about sports cos I don’t follow anyone from sports and even my feeds(from the people I follow)never have any news from sports. And while someone from North may follow someone from South, and may have seen something in passing,it may not be interesting enough to dig into the details. Similar to this blog where I can comment about say Parvathy’s new movie but I don’t think anyone except Angie would be interested.I think that’s a natural reaction. We have primary Interests which we pursue at all costs and then secondary ones which we keep postponing to pursue at leisure & ends up never getting to. There is just too much content available all around and we do have to prioritize what we can make time for to consume. But I definitely think some of the female film journalists in south write wonderfully to create awareness on the misogynistic portrayals in Indian films-such as the one below.

            https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/8-real-life-nightmarish-scenarios-women-which-pass-love-or-comedy-cinema-104322

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          • And then there are the rare people like Angie (hi Angie! We are saying nice things about you!) who leap in and follow all those different threads at once. Okay, that makes sense.

            I wish I could say my blog was a place to bring it all together, but situations like this show that I still have 80-90% Hindi news people versus other industries. And that’s not going to change just by doing the occasional review and so on, I would need to really break into the non-Hindi “silos” (love that phrase!) to bring in that community.

            On Thu, Jun 27, 2019 at 9:52 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

            >

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  3. “A film like Veere Di Wedding is something you can see in the afternoon in the nice new theater you can drive to from your house in the suburbs, or after work at the downtown theater, without being worried about being harassed for being in public. Or being questioned by your family about what movie you are going to see and why. You can go with your friends and laugh at jokes about female masturbation without feeling embarrassed, and then come back with your teenage daughter the next day. Or drag your husband along and not care if he is uncomfortable. It’s a whole world of freedom that is limited to men in India.”
    I find this assumption problematic. While it maybe true for most of the country, in my experience, it is certainly not the case in upper class urban India (the primary target audience for this genre).

    Liked by 1 person

    • In the West, this would be true of most woman, not just upper class urban woman. As you say, it is not true for most women in India. That’s my point, the audience for these films is correspondingly larger in countries where all women who are part of the audience can see it.

      The fact that the film is assumed to be targeting upper class urban women, while an equivalent film that stars men (like, for instance, the Housefull series, also featuring wealthy leads, raunchy humor, location shooting, and lots of English dialogue) also bugs the heck out of me, and it damages the release of the films, they aren’t promoted or released to audiences outside of the upper class urban areas and never get a fair chance. I saw the same thing with Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga.

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      • That assumption is the reality because more often than not, the film-makers themselves believe it. Veere was called out because their publicity campaign #notachickflick was implying that a “chick flick” has a negative connotation.

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        • Yes. And then it received a limited release only in urban areas. Again, a difference with the West, all theaters are far more equal here, so both the gender and the class divide is erased. Which I guess is a new thing in India, post-multiplexes. I don’t know how often a multiplex audience would go to a single-screen or vice versa, but the price difference alone makes me think there isn’t much overlap.

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          • Female centric films suffer in India (and other places too) because most of the time men hold the purse strings. If there is a family outing, they will watch a male-centric masala movie because the men in the household won’t agree to watch a movie that skews too female.
            Women alone also find it hard to go out and watch these movies because it still requires providing an explanation. In most conservative families, it would be very difficult for the daughter to go and watch something like Veere Di Wedding. People don’t want to exhaust themselves fighting for things like this because there are more important things they need to fight for.
            I think the same is happening to genres like romance which are considered female-centric. Men look down upon them and make fun of women who want to watch them. The opposite doesn’t happen. Women will go and watch the trashy masala/action movie with their family/husband/boyfriend. That’s why these women-centric genres are going to streaming now because you can watch in peace without offering explanations to others or having them look down on it.

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          • Yes, that is exactly what I was thinking of when I wrote this post. If I am a 20 year old man in India and I want to see Arjun Reddy, who will question me? From my parents to the ticket taker, it’s easy. If I am a 20 year old woman in India and I want to see Veere di Wedding, I have to explain why I want the money from my parents, where I am going, who I am going with, and then the same to my friend’s parents, and then actually purchase the ticket, and on and on. So many barriers and moments for judgement! Versus in the west, where you would be more likely to have your own spending money, friends with cars, and a ticket taker and general society who does not care one way or another what movie you watch.

            For your last point, this is where I am frustrated with reviewers, why do relationship dramas and other “female” movies tend to get worse reviews that equivalent “male” movies? It makes it so much harder for the primarily female audience to justify their taste and get access to what they want. If you want to see Raabta, you are told no because it is a poor quality film. If someone wants to make you watch India’s Most Wanted, it is a “good” movie so you have to like it. It’s no longer about taste and preference between equal genres, it’s about good and bad.

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