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!
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.
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.