Streaming Video News: October 16, 2017

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with two big new additions to the catalog. After adding eighteen Indian titles to Netflix yesterday, two Hindi releases from 2017 joined the streaming service today: Baadshaho and Lucknow Central. The speed with which Netflix posted these titles is terrific. Baadshaho opened theatrically on September 1, and Lucknow Central released less than a month ago on September 22! Too bad Baadshaho is terrible. 😦

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with one new addition to the free streaming catalog: the 2016 Tamil film Savitri, which is also available for viewing with ads for non-Prime subscribers. For everything else new on Netflix and Amazon Prime — Bollywood or not — check Instant Watcher.

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Bollywood Box Office: October 13-15, 2017

Absent competition from any new Bollywood releases, Judwaa 2 led the North American box office for a third straight weekend. From October 13-15, 2017, the comedy reboot earned $101,341 from 125 theaters ($811 average), becoming just the fifth Hindi film of the year to earn more than $100,000 in its third weekend of release. Its current total of $1,392,946 ranks Judwaa 2 in ninth place for the year.

Another bit of happy news (on a much more modest scale) is that Bareilly Ki Barfi posted the highest ninth-weekend earnings of the year, by a long shot. The $1,409 the romantic comedy earned from two theaters ($705 average) beat out Baahubali 2‘s Weekend 9 earnings of $726 from three theaters and Toilet: Ek Prem Katha‘s $120 from one theater — quite the feat for a movie whose widest release was 44 theaters! Bareilly Ki Barfi‘s total stands at $572,298.

Chef fared poorly in its second weekend in North America, earning $10,920 from 23 theaters ($475 average), bringing its total to $91,878.

Other Hindi movies still showing in the United States:

  • Shubh Mangal Saavdhan: Week 7; $819 from one theater; $629,427 total
  • Simran: Week 5; $505 from one theater; $405,394 total
  • Tu Hai Mera Sunday: Week 2; $441 from five theaters; $88 average; $4,694 total
  • Bhoomi: Week 4; $374 from two theaters; $187 average; $72,297 total
  • Toilet — Ek Prem Katha: Week 10; $53 from one theater; $1872,300 total

Sources: Sumit Chadha and Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

Streaming Video News: October 15, 2017

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with eighteen new additions to the streaming catalog. Among the newly added titles are several small-budget films with intriguing actresses, including Richa Chadha in Tamanchey, Konkona Sen Sharma in Gour Hai Dastaan: The Freedom File, Tannishtha Chatterjee in Jal, Ira Dubey in Aisa Yeh Jahaan, and Swara Bhaskar in the horror flick Machhli Jal Ki Rani Hai. There’s also the dumb Sanjay Dutt crime drama Zila Ghaziabad, as well as the documentary Why Knot. Here are all the other Indian films just added to Netflix (courtesy of Instant Watcher):

 

Streaming Bollywood Movies: Review of Amazon’s Heera Channel

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In March, 2017, Amazon added a new Indian movie channel to its American lineup of add-on subscriptions to Prime Video. The Heera channel boasts hundreds of titles in Hindi, Marathi, Bengali, Tamil, and Telugu. Here’s my take on the service.

Foremost in the minds of many consumers when choosing a streaming provider is the strength of the service’s catalog. With nearly 400 titles in the Hindi collection alone, Heera has a lot to offer fans of Indian cinema. As of the time of this writing (October, 2017), Heera already carries twelve movies released theatrically in 2017. The service has a number of new stand-up comedy specials by Indian comedians, as well as the original TV series Inside Edge starring Richa Chadha and Vivek Oberoi. (Much of the content available with the additional Heera subscription in the States is available with a standard Amazon Prime subscription elsewhere in the world.)

Maybe even more important, Heera has what are arguably the two most desirable Bollywood films for repeat viewing: Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham… and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. Streaming services have been racing to sign contracts for access to the full catalogs of the most prominent Indian studios and production houses. Netflix has a deal with Shah Rukh Khan’s Red Chillies Entertainment, while Amazon/Heera have contracts with Yash Raj Films and Farhan Akhtar’s Excel Entertainment. Heera’s recent addition of several films starring or produced by Salman Khan point to a relationship between the star and the streaming service as well. (At the time of this writing, Netflix, Amazon/Heera, and iTunes are all vying for Eros International’s huge catalog.)

Another nice feature of Heera’s collection is a subset of movies produced by the National Film Development Corporation, an organization devoted to financing films of artistic merit that might otherwise struggle within the traditional studio format. Heera also has a number of older titles from the 1970s and earlier.

Heera’s deep, diverse catalog — I haven’t even touched on movies in other languages or Heera’s collection of animated children’s shows — appeals to a wide audience. A multi-generational household will find something for everyone in the family to enjoy, for less than the cost of a movie ticket.

That leads to another key determining factor for streaming subscriptions: price. If you live in one of the estimated 64% of US households that already subscribe to Amazon Prime, paying an additional $4.99 per month for Heera is a no-brainer. It’s cheaper than Netflix’s most basic one screen/standard definition plan for $7.99 per month, and you get access to an extensive collection of Hollywood and international movies available through the basic Prime membership, with includes dozens of Indian films.

Things get more complicated if you’re only subscribing to Heera for the movies and wouldn’t otherwise use Amazon Prime. You can save a little money with a year-long subscription to Prime for $99, bringing the per-month cost of a Heera subscription down to $13.24. (Amazon offers a 30-day free trail of Prime, if you’re unsure about a long-term commitment.) A strictly month-to-month plan costs $14.99 — $10 for Prime plus $4.99 for Heera. That’s three dollars more than the current cost of Netflix’s most expensive four-screens, Ultra-HD plan.

Of course, there are other aspects to consider when choosing a streaming service. One really cool feature available with Amazon/Heera is the ability to change the size and background color of subtitles. There are five text sizes available, as well as three color options: white text/no background, white text/translucent grey background, or yellow text/black background. You can preview a sample of what each style and size subtitles will look like, even if you adjust the settings in the middle of watching a movie. Keep in mind that some titles do not have English subtitles (including my beloved horror flick Khamoshiyan). Heera also allows you to download movies for later viewing, and the video quality is good on an iPad.

The biggest downside for Heera is that — as an Amazon subsidiary — its catalog shares the same abysmal organization that plagues the rest of Amazon’s video catalog. It’s not just that catalog is disorganized; some movies are impossible to find unless you specifically search for them by title. Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge isn’t mentioned on any of the twenty-four pages of movies listed under the “Heera Bollywood Movies” section. I only knew to search for it by name because so many other Yash Raj films are available.

It’s also impossible to skip more than one page ahead through Heera’s desktop catalog (okay, you can jump from Page 1 to Page 3). With titles sorted by “Newest Available” — which gives the fullest possible iteration of the Bollywood catalog — it took me 1 minute 45 seconds to scroll all the way to the last title — and that’s on a new computer without stopping to actually read the titles. Woe unto you who forgets the name of a movie listed on Page 24 and has to look for it on a computer with an ancient operating system.

The Heera app available on my smart TV has a few lists — such as “Heera Popular Movies” or “Heera Comedy Specials” — that sort the movies available in that category in order of popularity. That means that you’ll have to scroll through 150 or so titles to find Fanaa under the “Heera Bollywood Movies” section, which only lists about half of the movies available in that category anyway. The “Heera Recently Added Movies” section is a couple of weeks out of date as well. Your best bet is to set aside some time to add the movies you want to see to your Watchlist using the full website. OR you could select movies from this handy list I made of all of the Hindi titles available on Heera. (Tips via PayPal are always appreciated.)

As of right now, Heera is my preferred Bollywood streaming service, over Netflix and Eros Now. The catalog is both current and deep, and the price point for Prime subscribers is hard to beat. Heera’s launch triggered a scramble among service providers, and Hotstar‘s recent foray into the American marketplace could mix things up once again. As great as Heera is, its reign as the best Bollywood streaming service could be brief if Amazon isn’t vigilant.

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In Theaters: October 13, 2017

No new Hindi movies open in the Chicago area on Friday, October 13, 2017, but there are several older options to choose from. Chef gets a second week at the AMC South Barrington 24 in South Barrington, Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville, and MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, which also holds over Tu Hai Mera Sunday and Bhoomi.

All three of the above theaters carry over Judwaa 2, which gets a third week at the Regal Round Lake Beach Stadium 18 in Round Lake Beach, AMC Dine-In Rosemont 18 in Rosemont, and AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge as well.

Other Indian and Pakistani movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend:

Streaming Video News: October 9, 2017

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Heera with one new addition to the catalog. Arjun Rampal’s Daddy is now available for streaming, one month after its theatrical release!

I also recently updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with the addition of the 2017 Indian-Chinese co-production Kung Fu Yoga, starring Jackie Chan and Sonu Sood. For everything else new on Netflix — Bollywood or not — check Instant Watcher.

Bollywood Box Office: October 6-8, 2017

Two new Hindi films had disastrous opening weekends in North America from October 6-8, 2017. The higher-profile release — Saif Ali Khan’s Chef — took in $57,179 from 64 theaters ($893 average; adjusted average of $1,059 from 54 theaters*), according to Bollywood Hungama. Even with a modest theater count, one would expect better from a remake of an American film with a big star opening on Columbus Day weekend.

The weekend’s other new release — Tu Hai Mera Sunday — tanked, predictably. The movie had a mostly unrecognizable cast, and there was no advanced publicity for its international release. It was no surprise, then, that Tu Hai Mera Sunday made just $4,253 from 20 theaters ($213 average) over the weekend, according to Sumit Chadha.

The recent lousy debuts of movies like Tu Hai Mera Sunday and Haseena Parkar have me scratching my head as to why many low-budget Hindi movies still opt for theatrical releases in the United States and Canada, especially with so much competition among streaming services for new Bollywood content. To date, 48 Hindi movies — including multilingual movies like Baahubali 2 and The Ghazi Attack and special engagement releases like the movies of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh — have opened in North American theaters this year. If the eight Hindi movies that I suspect will open here before the end of the year actually do so, that would make 56 Bollywood movies released in North America in 2017 — four more titles than the previous record release year of 2014. What can be gained when a movie earns less than $10,000 in its opening weekend here, as is the case for six titles already this year? Eleven films haven’t even made $50,000 over the courses of their theatrical runs. It’s perplexing.

Other Hindi movies still in North American theaters:

  • Bareilly Ki Barfi: Week 8; $3,980 from three theaters; $1,327 average; $569,635 total
  • Shubh Mangal Saavdhan: Week 6; $2,418 from two theaters; $1,209 average; $629,427 total
  • Simran: Week 4; $1,350 from three theaters; $450 average; $404,301 total
  • Bhoomi: Week 3; $258 from three theaters; $86 average; $71,803 total
  • Toilet — Ek Prem Katha: Week 9; $120 from one theater; $1,872,211 total

*Bollywood Hungama frequently counts Canadian theaters twice in when they report figures for a film’s first few weeks of release. When possible, I verify theater counts at Box Office Mojo, but I use Bollywood Hungama as my primary source because they provide a comprehensive and consistent — if flawed — data set.

Sources: Box Office Mojo, Sumit Chadha, and Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama