Two major Bollywood movies hit theaters in the United States and Canada on Thursday, October 2, 2014, and both posted impressive opening weekend numbers. (Bollywood Hungama doesn’t specify, but I suspect the numbers below represent the two films’ Thursday-Sunday earnings.)
Bang Bang — which opened in more international theaters than any other Bollywood film to date — earned $1,410,838 from 292 North American theaters for a per-screen average of $4,830. That’s the biggest opening weekend total for a Hindi movie in 2014 by a margin of nearly $400,000 over the previous title-holder, 2 States ($1,026,353). Granted, Bang Bang debuted in more than twice as many theaters as 2 States (131), giving 2 States a much higher opening weekend per-screen average ($7,835).
Bang Bang‘s enormous international release is an impressive stunt, but I wonder if it would’ve been better for individual theaters had the distributor scaled it back a bit. Could the film still have earned $1.4 million had it debuted on 230 screens? Probably. Take a look at the North American figures broken down by country:
USA: $1,156,946 from 271 theaters for $4,269 average
Canada: $253,437 from 21 theaters for $12,068 average
Anecdotally, Bang Bang opened in 13 theaters in the Chicago area, several of which don’t normally carry Bollywood films. I went to the first show on Thursday at one of those theaters. There were nine other people in the theater with me, so at $5 per ticket, the business only grossed $50 from that showing. On the positive side, three of those people were middle-aged white guys who said that this was their first Bollywood film. Still, I’m not sure numbers like that will inspire the theater to book more Hindi movies in the future.
October 2’s other new release, Haider, posted impressive returns as well. The adaptation of Hamlet earned $538,999 from 123 theaters ($4,382 average), giving Haider the eighth highest opening weekend earnings for a Hindi film in North America in 2014.
[Update: Box Office Mojo reports slightly higher 4-day earnings and slightly lower theater counts for both movies: $1,449,215 from 271 theaters ($5,348 average) for Bang Bang and $549,372 from 119 theaters ($4,617 average) for Haider.]
Finding Fanny is nearing the end of its theatrical run, and its total earnings are less than what I anticipated. From October 3-5, 2014, it earned $440 from one theater to bring its total to $798,652. When it debuted, I noted that every other Bollywood movie that earned in excess of $500,000 in its opening weekend this year went on to earn at least $850,000. I suspect Finding Fanny‘s failure to reach that benchmark can be attributed to the surprise success of Khoobsurat, which released the following weekend.
Other Hindi movies showing in North American theaters:
Khoobsurat: Week 3; $43,999 from 34 theaters; $1,294 average; $707,592 total
Daawat-e-Ishq: Week 3; $5,831 from 11 theaters; $530 average; $382,809 total
The Lunchbox: Week 32; $498 from two theaters; $249 average; $4,049,489 total
Khoobsurat continued its box office dominance in North America for a second week. During the weekend of September 26-28, 2014, it added an additional $173,022 from 60 theaters to bring its total to $621,318. The Disney romantic comedy’s business fell a mere 48% from its debut weekend. Its per-screen average earnings of $2,884 were fourth highest among second weekend averages this year, behind juggernauts like The Lunchbox, Queen, and 2 States.
In a repeat of last weekend, Daawat-e-Ishq fared poorly compared to Khoobsurat. Daawat-e-Ishq earned $82,764 from 77 theaters ($1,075 average), a 60% drop from its opening weekend. Its total North American earnings stand at $354,875.
Other Hindi movies showing in the United States and Canada over the weekend:
Finding Fanny: Week 3; $25,151 from 41 theaters; $613 average; $793,309 total
The Lunchbox: Week 31; $1,232 from three theaters; $411 average; $4,048,317 total
Mary Kom: Week 4; $910 from three theaters; $330 average; $632,832 total
In the battle of the romantic comedies, Khoobsurat emerged the clear victor over Daawat-e-Ishq. During the weekend of September 19-21, 2014, Disney/UTV’s Khoobsurat earned $332,486 from 69 theaters in North America. It averaged an impressive $4,819 per screen.
By contrast, Yash Raj Films’ Daawat-e-Ishq earned $204,950 from 113 theaters for a per-screen average of $1,814.
2014 has been a dud of a year for Yash Raj Films in North America. Following the release of 2013’s massively successful Dhoom 3 — which earned $8,090,250 in North America — all of the Hindi films YRF has released since have looked comparatively anemic:
Gunday: $887,675 total gross; widest release: 150 theaters
Mardaani: $393,619 total gross; widest release: 86 theaters
Given that Daawat-e-Ishq opened in 113 theaters in the United States and Canada, YRF clearly expected it to perform far better than it did. YRF still has Kill Dil to release in November, but it looks too wacky to attract a wide audience. YRF’s other 2014 release —Titli — will likely be relegated to the festival circuit in North America (including three showings at the Chicago International Film Festival in October).
Other Hindi movies still in U.S. and Canadian theaters:
Finding Fanny: Week 2; $124,165 from 114 theaters; $1,089 average; $739,370 total
Mary Kom: Week 3; $12,210 from 17 theaters; $718 average; $629,322 total
The Lunchbox: Week 30; $772 from two theaters; $336 average; $4,046,834 total
Mardaani: Week 5; $59 from one theater; $393,619 total
Director Homi Adajania’s English-language comedy Finding Fanny performed very well in its opening weekend in the United States and Canada. From September 12-14, Finding Fanny earned $515,393 from 121 theaters for an average of $4,259 per screen. Every Bollywood film that has earned more than $500,000 in its opening weekend in North America this year has gone on to earn at least $850,000, so total earnings in excess of $1 million are not out of the question for Finding Fanny.
Indian films with predominantly English dialogue are rare, but they tend to do well at the North American box office. The 2011 comedy Delhi Belly earned $581,943 in its opening weekend, going on to post total earnings of $1,532,594. In 2006, Adajania’s first English film — Being Cyrus — opened in just two theaters in North America but earned $40,744. That’s an astounding per-screen average of $20,372!
In its second weekend in theaters, Mary Kom added another $119,460 to its tally, bringing its North American total to $590,165.
Other Hindi movies showing in U.S. and Canadian theaters over the weekend:
Mardaani: Week 4; $6,560 from 12 theaters; $547 average; $391,931 total
The Lunchbox: Week 29; $3,302 from three theaters; $$1,101 average; $4,043,411 total
Singham Returns: Week 5; $1,612 from six theaters; $269 average; $1,231,550 total
“No one deserves an incomplete love story.” Finding Fanny humorously and thoughtfully explores the ways that waiting for an answer suspends us in time.
The above quote is spoken by the film’s narrator, Angie (Deepika Padukone), a 26-year-old widow living in Pocolim, a tiny town in Goa. Life’s forward progress stopped for Angie when her husband (Ranveer Singh) choked to death on their wedding cake, though she’s serene about her situation. She lives with her mother-in-law, Rosie (Dimple Kapadia), the queen bee of Pocolim.
Angie’s best friend is Ferdie (Naseeruddin Shah), the town’s mailman. His forward progress stopped forty-six years ago when he wrote a letter proposing marriage to a girl named Fanny Fernandez, but never received a response. He’s the only boy in the church choir with white hair.
One night, the letter Ferdie mailed to Fanny is slipped under his door, unopened and undelivered. Angie organizes a trip to help Ferdie find Fanny and discover what her answer would have been. She enlists the help of her mother-in-law, her recently returned childhood sweetheart, Savio (Arjun Kapoor), and Don Pedro, (Pankaj Kapur), a visiting artist obsessed with voluptuous Rosie and owner of the town’s only car.
Of course the brief road trip winds up far more complicated than expected, and tensions flare within the group. Ferdie reveals to Savio the reason why his formerly close friendship with Rosie ended, and Savio fights with Angie about what would’ve happened had he married her instead. Don Pedro’s lecherous ogling of Rosie doesn’t help matters.
Finding Fanny is a beautiful looking film, thanks to cinematographer Anil Mehta. There are lots of wonderful individual shots — Angie’s face as she stares pensively out the open car window, for example — as well as wide shots showing the vastness of the world outside of Pocolim that never before interested Rosie, Ferdie, or Angie. The visual beauty is enhanced by Mathias Duplessy’s vibrant score.
The actors keep their performances subdued. Much is communicated non-verbally, especially by the expressive faces of Padukone and Shah. At the same time, the characters are all funny, none more so than Kapadia’s Rosie. The members of the traveling party are eccentrics, not outrageous goofballs or weirdos.
The glaring exception to the subtly rule is a Russian man who now owns Fanny’s childhood home. His delivery is so loud and exaggerated in comparison to the other performances that it feels out-of-place.
Perhaps the film’s biggest fault lies in the development of Angie’s character (though that’s not a slight on Padukone’s terrific portrayal). It’s obvious what every other character wants: Savio wants Angie; Don Pedro wants Rosie; Ferdie wants the Fanny of his memories; and Rosie wants to live a dignified life that she controls.
It’s never clear what Angie wants, other than to reunite Ferdie with Fanny. She speaks in important-sounding vagaries that don’t really mean anything. Is the point that she’s still too young to know what she wants? That we should be at peace with what we have? I was never sure. That’s a letdown for a character who’s not only the film’s narrator, but also the most important person in the lives of Ferdie, Rosie, and Savio.
Still, Finding Fanny is one of the more intriguing movies to come out of Bollywood this year. The fact that the dialogue is in English just adds to the intrigue. It’s unique, enjoyable, and worth a watch.
Fall is going to be a lot of fun if three newly released trailers are any indication of the quality of Bollywood fare that awaits us in a couple of months. The first of the three films to hit theaters is Daawat-e-Ishq (“Feast of Love“), releasing September 5. More Parineeti Chopra is always a good thing.
The following weekend sees the release of Finding Fanny, an offbeat road trip film starring Deepika Padukone and Naseeruddin Shah. The movie’s dialogue is a mix of Hindi and English. I cannot wait for September 12 to come around, because I am dying to see this.
On October 2, director Vishal Bhardwaj’s Haider hits theaters. A Hindi interpretation of Hamlet set in Kashmir? Sign me up!