The weekend of February 26-28, 2016, provides a good picture of the state of the Bollywood market in North America. Attendance is often all or nothing, with audiences flocking to certain movies while avoiding others like the plague.
Neerja is a perfect example of a high-demand film. In its second weekend of release, Neerja actually added 47 new theaters. It earned $450,086 from a total of 135 theaters in the United States and Canada, a per-screen average of $3,334. Its North American total stands at $1,248,463, which is already more than double what it earned in its opening weekend.
On the flip side is the weekend’s new release, Tere Bin Laden: Dead or Alive. It earned a mere $18,450 from 62 theaters, an average of just $298 per screen. Considering that my local theater ran the movie 12 times over the weekend with an average ticket price of $10, that per-screen average means that most showings had an audience of fewer than three people.
TBL 2‘s failure was so predictable that it makes the decision to release it into 62 theaters here mind-boggling. But this year has been replete with bad decision upon bad decision, and we’re only two months into 2016. It seems that the lessons of 2015 have already been forgotten.
Last year was noteworthy because 42 Hindi films released in North American theaters, a drop of about 20% from 2014’s peak of 52 theatrically released Hindi movies. Yet the total box office returns for all Bollywood fare in North America grew steadily, increasing by approximately 11% on movies released in 2014, which itself improved on 2013’s total by 12%. Total theater count also grew at a similar pace, up by about 8% from 2014, which itself grew by approximately 5% from 2013. It’s evident that overall industry growth depends more on increased access to theatrical releases, not an increased volume of titles available.
Another key point is that, in 2015, just five theatrical releases failed to earn at least $30,000 in their opening weekend. That was down from 13 titles in 2014 and ten in 2014. Yet, just two months into 2016, we’ve already had five titles earn under $30,000 in their opening weekends! How many more obvious duds have to bomb before studios and distributors realize not every Bollywood movie merits an international theatrical release?
Other Hindi movies still in North American theaters:
- Airlift: Week 6; $7,771 from six theaters; $1,295 average; $1,854,787 total
- Fitoor: Week 3; $2,171 from five theaters; $434 average; $513,879 total
- Loveshhuda: Week 2; $200 from two theaters; $100 average; $1,787 total
Source: Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama