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.
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.
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.