January 29-31, 2016, was an awful weekend for new Bollywood movies in North America. Let’s look first at the better of the two new releases. According to Rentrak data supplied to Bollywood Hungama, Saala Khadoos earned $62,920 from 58 theaters ($1,085 average). Those figures are slightly lower than those reported by Box Office Mojo — $76,931 from 70 theaters; $1,099 average. Things look rosier when factoring in collections from the Tamil version of the film, Irudhi Suttru: $83,994 from 35 theaters ($2,399 average).
The weekend’s other new release — Mastizaade — got trounced. It earned just $28,529 from 46 theaters for a per-screen average of $620. It performed so poorly that, as of Tuesday, my local theater had cut back from four showings per day to just one. Its average is even worse than Kyaa Kool Hain Hum 3‘s first-weekend average of $716. For a look into Mastizaade‘s bleak future, note that KKHH3 took in just $913 from eight theaters in its second weekend ($114 average), bringing its total to $31,444.
The lesson to be learned here is: don’t open Hindi sex comedies in North America. There is no demographic here yearning for sex comedies with no sex, especially not when there are racier Hollywood alternatives in theaters and a world of raunchy stuff available to anyone with an internet connection.
There’s possibly another lesson to be learned from Saala Khadoos. Sports movies are among the most easily accessible across cultures thanks to their formulaic nature and the fact that people everywhere share a love for sport, so why not adapt the advertising in the hopes of nabbing people outside of the usual target audience?
Look at the poster for Saala Khadoos. There’s nothing on the poster to indicate that it’s about boxing, and the title isn’t informative even if you know Hindi. Why not follow the route of festivals films and release it internationally with an evocative English title — Fighting Spirit or something like that — and then have R. Madhavan squaring off with Ritika Singh on the poster. As it stands, the poster only appeals to people who are already Madhavan fans.
In contrast, check out the poster for Neerja. It’s clearly a hijacking thriller set on a plane, and the woman with the gun pointed at her is dressed as a flight attendant. The text at the top reads “Fear gave her courage,” so we know that she must be the hero. The poster is geared toward people who haven’t already heard of the film, hoping to entice them to buy a theater ticket or add the movie to their Netflix queue. Sonam Kapoor fans are going to buy a ticket no matter what, so there’s no need to cater to them.
As for other Hindi movies still showing in North America, Airlift won the weekend, adding another $482,307 from 101 theaters ($4,775 average) to bring its two-week total to $1,534,443. Those figures may be on the low side since Rentrak didn’t report separate second-weekend earnings from Canada.
Wazir added another $7,513 from 11 theaters ($683 average) to bring its four-week total to $1,109,233. Bajirao Mastani closed out its seventh weekend with $6,966 from six theaters ($1,161 average). Its total stands at $6,551,448.