Are Big Bollywood Screen Counts Good for Theaters?

When writing about Happy New Year‘s opening weekend box office performance in the United States and Canada, I was intrigued by the way that Bollywood movies’ per-screen averages have decreased over the years as screen counts have gone up. The examples I cited in my weekly box office update were Om Shanti Om (114 theaters, $15,474 per-theater average) and Chennai Express (196 theaters, $12,328 average), as compared to Happy New Year (280 theaters, $7,417 average).

With more and more Bollywood films opening on 200+ screens in North America (e.g., Happy New Year, Bang Bang, Dhoom 3, Krrish 3, Ram-Leela, Besharam, and Kites), theaters that regularly carry Hindi films have likely seen their per-screen earnings for each film decrease. But are these diminished averages still high enough to make it profitable for new theaters to carry major Bollywood releases?

For an example, I looked at the Marcus Addison theater in Addison, Illinois, in the western suburbs of Chicago. The Marcus Addison has carried Indian films in languages other than Hindi sporadically over the years, and recently programmed Bang Bang and Happy New Year. Eight other theaters within twenty-five miles of the Marcus Addison also showed Happy New Year over the weekend of October 24-26, 2014.

Was it really worth it for the Marcus Addison to carry Happy New Year, when there were so many other theaters in close proximity showing it as well? The answer is yes. I checked Box Office Mojo for the per-screen average earnings of all the movies showing at the Marcus Addison that weekend and ranked them from highest to lowest, also noting each film’s week of release. Happy New Year‘s average was second highest of the nineteen films that played at the Marcus Addison from October 24-26.

  • The Principle (Week 1; only theater showing it in U.S.): $8,657
  • Happy New Year (Week 1): $7,417
  • Ouija (Week 1): $6,955
  • John Wick (Week 1): $5,568
  • Fury (Week 2): $4,209
  • Gone Girl (Week 4): $3,556
  • St. Vincent (Week 3; 1st week of wide release): $3,395
  • Kaththi (Week 1) $3,374
  • The Book of Life (Week 2): $3,228
  • Alexander & the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (Week 3): $2,309
  • Dracula Untold (Week 3): $1,860
  • The Equalizer (Week 5): $1,696
  • The Judge (Week 3): $1,673
  • The Best of Me (Week 2): $1,575
  • The Maze Runner (Week 6): $1,572
  • Addicted (Week 3): $1,566
  • Annabelle (Week 4): $1,337
  • The Boxtrolls (Week 5): $840
  • Men, Women & Children (Week 4): $119

Happy New Year beat not only older Hollywood movies, but also every new Hollywood film released that weekend as well. The only film it lost to was a documentary that happened to make its U.S. theatrical debut at the Marcus Addison that weekend.

With so much money to go around, theater counts in excess of 300 can’t be far off.

Sources: Box Office Mojo and Bollywood Hungama

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