The terrific drama Highway opened in 97 North American theaters on February 21, 2014, earning $326,654 in its first weekend (according to Box Office Mojo). Its per screen average of $3,368 bested all but three films in the top twenty. While $326,654 is a respectable return, it’s less than the first-week earnings of director Imtiaz Ali’s past projects.
In the summer of 2009, Love Aaj Kal produced Ali’s best-ever box office results in North America. Love Aaj Kal earned $1,241,762 from 102 theaters in its opening weekend ($12,174 average), ultimately raking in $2,430,083.
Ali’s unconventional romantic drama Rockstar performed well when it debuted in the fall of 2011, earning $612,235 from 112 theaters ($5,466 average) in its opening weekend. Rockstar went on to gross a total of $986,697.
Over the course of their four- or five-week theatrical runs in North America, the total earnings for Ali’s past movies were nearly double what they earned in their opening weekend in theaters. Highway could fall short of doubling its initial take for a couple of reasons.
First, the release of Shaadi Ke Side Effects — a more conventional rom-com starring Vidya Balan and Farhan Akhtar — on February 28 could put a serious dent in Highway‘s second-weekend earnings. None of Ali’s other projects faced any new competition in their second weekend.
For Highway to ultimately earn around $600,000 in North America, it’s going to need positive word of mouth to drive people to the theater this week and through next weekend. Given that I’ve heard from a couple of people who’ve already watched it twice in the theater, a $600,000 total is possible.
That may sound impressive, but consider that Hasee Toh Phasee posted average third week earnings of $1306 per screen ($36,587 from 28 screens) in the same weekend. While Hasee Toh Phasee‘s overall total is lower — $634,099 so far — it remains a better investment for theaters than Gunday.