Global Box Office: Kabir Singh Rises Down Under, Article 15 is America’s Choice

Huh! What an odd pattern! America continues to reject Kabir Singh, and so does New Zealand, but every where else loves it. What do American and New Zealand have in common? That feels like a riddle, but I am honestly asking. Of course, New Zealand also loved Loveyatri. Maybe they are just weird down there. (as always, figures from bollywoodhungama)

Kabir Singh continues to be a massive hit in the Indian market. And I continue to believe that is because it appeals to young men who have an outsize influence right now on the Indian box office, especially compared to the international box office. Last week, it did very well overseas. Remarkable for a film without one of the major name stars, but not record breaking astounding. This week, the global picture is a little more nuanced.

America has essentially rejected Kabir Singh. I’m American, but my focus on that market isn’t because of limited awareness of other places, or even because I am most able to understand that market, but because it is the largest money-spinner for Indian films. America is just a very large place with a very very large potential market for films. If you don’t do well in America, even if you do well everywhere else, that is a big bite out of your profits.

Image result for kabir singh poster
Maybe we’re just sick of medical stories after the ten gabillion doctor TV shows that are always on TV?

Last week, opening week, Kabir Singh did $3,739 on 128 screens in America. Which is good for a non-star film on a non-holiday weekend, but cannot compare with the numbers it is doing in India. This week, it added one screen to bring the total up to 129. Again, in screen count alone, this does not compare. The real big sleeper hits in the US, like Neerja, added another 3rd again screens in the second week. Kabir Singh added 1. It was already released on a modest number of screens (Bharat was on 280, for comparison), and there is no bigger release to compete, so merely holding steady is kind of average. And the per screen take dropped to only $2,345 per screen. Which is fine, notable , but not exciting or record breaking.

But on the other hand, in Canada Kabir Singh is holding steady at almost $10,000 per screen on 15 screens versus 16 last week. Same in the UK, dropped from 39 to 22 screens but holding steady at almost $2,000 per screen. Australia, dropped from 36 to 20 screens but rose from $6,600 per screen to $12,688 per screen, in fact making MORE in total this week than it did last week, opening weekend. And then in New Zealand, $4,000 last week on 14 screens, $4,000 this week on 10 screens.

I guess the best way to make sense of this pattern is that it follows the same “young man” pattern as India. Canada and Australia always go for Punjabi movies and action movies, more kind of young man items. And Kabir Singh fits in there, firmly Punjabi and also firmly Young Man. The UK is a bit more of a mystery, they usually go a bit more family or intellectual. But I suppose they could be going through the same transformation as India, the young men of the desi households being more likely to go to theaters than the families or women? Or maybe they are responding to the romance part of the film rather than the Angry Young Man parts?

And America is the odd one out. Just very minimal interest in Kabir Singh. Meanwhile, and here’s the really interesting part, Article 15 is going great guns. Well, great guns for an Ayushmann Khurrana movie about caste violence. 90 screens and $3,400 per screen. Making MORE in total this week than Kabir Singh on 129 screens, the only place in the world where Article 15 beat Kabir Singh. For comparison, Anurag Sinha’s last very similar film Mulk (dark topic, Taapsee Pannu and Rishi Kapoor in the leads) released on only 25 screens and only made $1,700.

Image result for article 15

Article 15 isn’t really doing poorly anywhere. Again, for a movie on caste violence with Ayushmann Khurrana. $5,000 per screen on 14 screens in Canada, $850 on 56 screens in the UK (overshot there), $2,727 on 28 screens in Australia (overshot there too). The makes clearly counted on far more interest in the UK, 56 screens is ridiculously high for that market for any film let alone a depressing mature one like this. But in Canada and Australia where there should be almost no interest, it did far better than I would expect. And it did very VERY well in the US. And the makers knew it would do well, released on a large number of screens.

I’d like to say this is because people care deeply about caste issues and want to be depressed and think about how to fix the world. But I suspect it is more a reflection of people coming to care deeply about Ayushmann Khurrana. He is getting more and more publicity, and the focus of the film promotions was pretty much just on him (this is why Ayushmann chose to do the film, this is his reaction to the protests, etc.). The trailer showed off his acting chops, the love song showed off his romance, and it is the first police role for him. The opening weekend take for a film is still, with a few exceptions, a test of the audiences’ affection for the lead actor. Before word of mouth, before reviews, who will show up just because their favorite actor is on the poster? And Ayushmann is passing that test better and better with each film. Especially in the American market, which is nothing to be sneezed at.

The makers were smart enough to put in a pretty love song for their nice leading man

20 thoughts on “Global Box Office: Kabir Singh Rises Down Under, Article 15 is America’s Choice

    • Yes, I am excited too! Looks like it is doing decent business in India as well, all of this is great.

      And on a selfish note, it means Isha Talwar will no longer pretend to speak Malayalam in my precious Malayalam movies.

      On Tue, Jul 2, 2019 at 10:16 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  1. Is it bad that I am actually very glad Kabir Singh isn’t doing as well in the US markets? I tried to watch Kabir Singh and I just couldn’t stomach it – the character made me sick to the stomach and Kiara’s part deeply annoyed me. I felt the character was abusive with no redemption. To me it was a real horror story. I think also with the me too movement affecting people here deeply, that perhaps they didn’t want to indulge. I see many young men now who do recognize this behaviour and choose to stay away from it.

    I would argue that Udta Punjab didn’t have big name stars (at that point Alia had still not become ALIA) but word of mouth and a fantastic story and execution really set it apart and gained traction.

    Article 15 – also shows ugly truths about people and prejudices in a deeply effective way in that it doesn’t glorify or glamorize their behaviour in a way that Kabir Singh did. Also you are a 100% right – I think people are fond of Ayushmann and are curious on his take on this subject – so that’s their initial allure.

    I think word of mouth has become very very important nowadays. People will not fall for a story unless they have someone to vouch for it. To go to the movies is an excursion – and if they hear it’s not worth it, they won’t go.

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    • Word of mouth is so dangerous, especially online word of mouth, because it is usual bad and often inaccurate. That is, the rumors of a “bad” film start spreading prior to release, so the word of mouth is obviously fake in that case and based on assumptions and prejudices towards the film instead of actually having watched it. I agree that the American market seems extra susceptible to it, and I suspect that is part of the reason big films consistently have been doing worse here. Something like Bharat which (I think) was a decent movie was killed by word of mouth before it even got a chance (that would be the kind of film that I would expect internet statements of “I saw it, it’s terrible, just for SK fanboys” to start spreading long before it hit theaters). And that could be another reason that Article 15 is doing better than Kabir Singh, setting aside actual quality Kabir Singh is much more of an internet buzzword (similar to a Khan film) while Article 15 was able to skate by unnoticed until folks actually saw the film.

      On Tue, Jul 2, 2019 at 10:39 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Right – Sometimes you have get movies getting bad press because of it’s star status. So many movies have fallen flat because of that. Unless you have no inclination towards the actors or actresses – you should watch watch the movie and make up your mind.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Right now it seems like Ayushmann is perfectly balanced as famous enough to get attention for his films, but not so famous that people will hate the film just because of him.

          On Tue, Jul 2, 2019 at 11:36 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • I thought Bharat earned over 200 crore and did well internationally. Is that not accurate? I was shocked that it was playing at a theater in my parents very very small town.

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        • It did far worse than Sultan. I think about the same as Race 3. And Kabir Singh is poised to pass it.

          So it did okay in the grand scheme of movies, but not well compared to other Salman films. Especially since (I think) it was higher quality than his last few movies.

          On Tue, Jul 2, 2019 at 11:59 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. I’m probably going to watch it when it’s streaming but I’m happy that Article 15 is doing well and I’m very impressed with how Ayushmann seems to be continuing his streak of solid earning films. Would you say that the American market straying from what’s popular domestically is a common occurrence? I feel like it has happened quite a few times in the past.

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    • I think the divide between markets is increasingly extreme, either there is total agreement or total disagreement. With Uri, there was total agreement. With Kabir Singh, total disagreement. We are getting fewer and fewer instances of “did slightly worse/slightly better”. It’s either identical, or wildly different. I’m not sure what to make of that.

      On Tue, Jul 2, 2019 at 10:41 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m thinking that Kabir Singh being a remake probably affected it’s box office. People probably already Arjun Reddy online and decided that they don’t want to see the same movie again. For example, I really liked the soundtrack of Kabir Singh but I still wasn’t interested in seeing the movie.

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    • Oh, that’s an interesting point! Especially in America where the Telugu audience is so large. In the more Punjabi influenced places, where it would be far less likely for folks to bother with Arjun Reddy even on streaming, Kabir Singh is doing far far better.

      On Tue, Jul 2, 2019 at 10:45 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • I saw they changed the name, didn’t see that the trailer released. Give me a second to watch it and I will totally right a post on that!

          On Tue, Jul 2, 2019 at 11:28 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  4. Considering the political climate in the US and the news about the refugee camps, I wonder if that was a factor in Article 15 being a success here? Just more political awareness and interest in civil rights in general.

    On another note, I already knew a lot of this story but it’s still pretty cool.

    View this post on Instagram

    “I lost my dad before I was born. He ran a wafer shop & after him my mom took over. My sisters had school, so my mom had to leave me at the fire temple with the priest’s wife, while she ran shop. I watched her fighting alone, for years. Soon I started school, but I had speech & learning disabilities. I remember, I had started singing to better my speech. And once at a performance, mom recorded the applause I got. It was so loud! I kept hearing it, it got my confidence back! I studied science after school, but I’d still take part in theatre & other arts. After college got over, I had to start contributing to the family. So I met the manager of a Taj hotel & asked for work at the rooftop restaurant. He said, ‘To reach the top, you have to start from the bottom.’ So he sent me to work in room service. Only after a year & a half did I become a waiter at that restaurant! Soon after, my mom met with an accident, so I quit my job & sat at the shop. And before I knew it, 14 years went by — during that time I met my wife, got married & even had kids. But throughout, something was amiss. So my wife encouraged me to explore. I loved photography & my dad was a photographer too. So I tried that & after some struggle, I started doing well. At the time, a friend got me to audition for an ad. I did & I got selected! So I decided to pursue it & in a few years I did over 180 ads & even some popular plays. I was also offered a short film. It had a low budget & was going to be shot on a handycam, but for me it was a golden opportunity! My life changed completely, when Vidhu Vinod Chopra saw a clip of the film. He got in touch & asked to meet me. When we met, he gave me a cheque of 2 lakhs to be in his next film. He didn't even have a film yet, but he didn't want me to become famous & not give him dates. That’s when Munnabhai MBBS happened & at 35, my dream career began. It was unexpected – but I grabbed the opportunity & didn’t let go. It’s been an amazing journey, one that did put me through some turbulence. But through all the good, the bad & the ugly, I learned to keep my hopes up & more than anything, know that it’s never too late to start over!”

    A post shared by Humans of Bombay (@officialhumansofbombay) on

    On another another note, this poster is another addition to wink-nudge-gaygaygay Bollywood films.

    Like

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