I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix because a ton of great Hindi films are set to expire from the service on August 1, as a result of the end of two-year contract with UTV Motion Pictures. Netflix could renew the contract in the near future, or the package of films could migrate to another streaming service. UTV is owned at least in part by Disney, so Hotstar is a likely destination. We’ll have to wait and see where they end up. Until then, here are the titles to catch on Netflix while you can:
I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with twenty-two new additions to the catalog! About half of these titles were on Netflix years ago, but the rest — films like Highway, Mohenjo Daro, and PK — are available on the service for the first time. I’m excited that three more of director Vishal Bhardwaj’s movies have joined the catalog. Here are all the titles added today:
The two latest Hindi films to open in North America did quite well in their first weekend in theaters. Let’s start with the wider release of the two: Baar Baar Dekho, starring Katrina Kaif and Sidharth Malhotra. During the weekend of September 9-11, 2016, Baar Baar Dekho earned $609,640 from 143 theaters, an average of $4,263 per theater. Those numbers are significantly better than figures for Kaif’s other 2016 romance, Fitoor, which co-starred Aditya Roy Kapur. Baar Baar Dekho has already earned more than Fitoor did in its entire run ($513,879) despite the fact that it opened in twenty fewer theaters.
By a very different metric, the weekend’s other new release — the golf comedy Freaky Ali — also posted good numbers. Freaky Ali earned $42,637 from 42 theaters ($1,015 average). That may not sound like much, but Bollywood movies that open in fewer than 50 theaters in North America are lucky to earn $20,000 in their opening weekend. The second highest opening weekend gross among the Under-50 club this year was Mastizaade, which earned $28,529 from 46 theaters. A final tally for Freaky Ali in the $60,000 range would be commendable.
Naam Hai Akira didn’t fare nearly as well as the new releases. Its business fell by 88% from last weekend, with returns of just $15,364 from 66 theaters ($233 average). Ouch. Its total earnings after two weekends are $210,865.
Rustom continues its impressive run into its fifth week, earning $17,335 from sixteen theaters ($1,083). Total earnings of $1,900,485 rank Akshay Kumar’s Rustom in fourth place for the year, just ahead of Kumar’s Airlift.
Other Hindi movies still in North American theaters:
The battle between Rustom and Mohenjo Daro has been decided in North America, with Rustom emerging the victor by a greater margin than it first appears. From August 12-14, 2016, Rustom earned $757,004 from 132 theaters ($5,735 average). During the same weekend, Mohenjo Daro earned almost as much — $728,236 — but in over a hundred more theaters (237, to be exact). That gave Mohenjo Daro a much lower per-theater average of $3,073.
To put these performances in context for the year, Mohenjo Daro released into the third highest number of theaters in North America, but its opening weekend gross was only sixth best and its opening weekend average a disappointing eleventh. On the other hand, Rustom released into the eighth highest number of theaters for 2016, but its opening weekend gross and average were both fifth best.
Both movies will wind up earning $1 million here, so at least Mohenjo Daro star Hrithik Roshan can hang his hat on that. It’s now a question of how widely the two film’s fortunes will diverge going forward, and anecdotal evidence from the Chicago area hints at a brighter future for Rustom. Last weekend saw Mohenjo Daro open in nine Chicago area theaters, compared to Rustom‘s six. Rustom is carrying over for a second weekend in all six of its original theaters, while Mohenjo Daro is down to seven. More importantly, three of those seven theaters are only showing Mohenjo Daro twice per day over the weekend, and another is only showing it once daily. So, despite the higher theater count, Mohenjo Daro gets only twenty showings across the Chicago area on Friday, while Rustom gets 22.
If Mohenjo Daro‘s showings are already being cut back dramatically, the movie could be down to just one or two theaters in Chicago by next weekend. If that plays out the same way in other metropolitan areas across the United States and Canada, Mohenjo Daro could have a lot of trouble going forward. Worst case scenario is a quick burnout like Fitoor earlier this year, which made 2/3s of its total earnings in its first weekend. A 1.5 multiplier would see Mohenjo Daro post total earnings just shy of $1.1 million, which would put it in tenth place for the year. That would be bad.
Other Bollywood movies still in North American theaters:
Dishoom: Week 3; $5,863 from nine theaters; $651 average; $803,195 total
Sultan: Week 6; $1,738 from two theaters; $869 average; $6,189,464 total
If you’re curious as to why movies featuring Randeep Hooda as the headlining star don’t release internationally, look no further than Laal Rang. From April 22-24, 2016, it earned just $5,874 from 31 North American theaters, a per-screen average of $189. Yuck. That’s the second worst opening weekend of the year after Loveshhuda ($1,399 from eight theaters), and that movie starred a couple of no-names. Randeep is my favorite actor, but apparently I’m one of the few people on the continent who will buy a ticket to watch him as the solo lead in a film. I was not surprised to have the entire theater to myself Friday morning.
The weekend was notable for another disappointing box office performance. In its second weekend, Fan earned $353,949 from 249 North American theaters ($1,421 average). That’s a drop of 74% from its opening weekend. Compare that to how this year’s other high-earners fared in their second weekends: Kapoor & Sons (-40%); Airlift (-41%); Neerja (-27%). Perhaps Fan‘s most comparable film among wide releases is Fitoor, which saw its second weekend biz drop by 87%.
Yash Raj Films should be worried, because among Hindi films that failed to retain at least 30% of their opening weekend gross in their second weekends, none have been able to double their opening weekend gross over the course of their theatrical run. (For Fan, that double figure would be $2,677,506.) That raises the distinct possibility that Fan may not be able to unseat Kapoor & Sons from atop this year’s North American leaderboard.
Of course, Fan has plenty going for it, including Shah Rukh Khan’s star power, a huge theatrical presence, and a favorable Bollywood calendar that won’t see another wide release until Housefull 3 on June 3. On the downside, waning interest tends to have a snowball effect. Fitoor earned $2,171 in its third weekend. With per-screen average earnings currently on par with Hollywood movies that have been out for a few weeks, there isn’t much incentive for theaters to keep Fan around, especially those theaters that rarely carry Hindi films. Even regular Bollywood theaters will be under pressure to free up screen space when Captain America: Civil War opens on May 6. Fan needs a really good second week and solid third weekend if it has any chance of beating Kapoor & Sons.
Other Hindi movies still in North American theaters:
Kapoor & Sons: Week 6; $13,352 from 12 theaters; $1,113 average; $2,647,874 total
Ki and Ka: Week 4; $8,074 from 12 theaters; $673 average; $914,993 total
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
Neerja debuted with superb numbers in North America. During the weekend of February 19-21, 2016, the biopic earned $619,185 from 88 theaters in the United States and Canada for a terrific per-screen average of $7,036. The first quarter of the year is prime time for female-led dramas, with Neerja following in the footsteps of past successes like: NH10, which opened in March, 2015, with $143,209 from 46 theaters ($3,113 average); Queen — March, 2014, opened with $161,998 from 39 theaters ($4,154 average); and Kahaani — March, 2012, opened with $263,011 from 45 theaters ($5,845 average). Credit to the team behind Neerja for recognizing that there is an appetite for these kinds of films, and that the money and effort spent on promoting them can yield big results from a growing number of theaters.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is the weekend’s other new release, Loveshhuda, which is a textbook case for how not to release a movie internationally. Loveshhuda released with absolutely no fanfare in eight theaters in the US and Canada and earned $1,399. That’s an average of $175 per screen (thanks to generous rounding up on my part). There are several lessons to reiterate here. 1) Don’t release a movie starring a couple of nugus — I could stop there — on the same weekend as a buzz-heavy release with an established star. 2) Let people know in advance that you are planning to release the movie, don’t just drop into theaters with no warning. 3) If you don’t think the movie can carry at least 30 theaters in the US and Canada, don’t bother.
Fitoor‘s business fell 86% in its second weekend, taking in $45,157 from 60 theaters ($753 average). Its total stands at $503,316.
In its third weekend, Ghayal Once Again added another $3,761 from five theaters ($752 average) to bring its total to $292,340. The fascinating thing about that total is that nearly half of it — $136,795 — comes from Canada, despite the fact that it never played on more than 13 theaters there. It opened in 67 theaters in the US. Never let anyone question Canada’s devotion to Sunny Deol.
Other Hindi movies still in theaters:
Airlift: Week 5; $19,569 from 12 theaters; $1,631 average; $1,843,074 total
Bajirao Mastani: Week 10; $1,207 from two theaters; $604 average; $6,563,317 total
Two new Bollywood movies get minor roll outs in Chicago area theaters on February 19, 2016. Neerja — a biographical terrorism drama starring Sonam Kapoor in the title role — gets the bigger release of the two, though it still only opens in three local theaters. There’s a recent history of female-led dramas — NH10, Queen, and Kahaani — getting limited North American releases early in the year and performing really well on a per-screen basis. Let’s see if Neerja follows suit.
Fitoor debuted to good-not-great numbers in the United States and Canada. During the weekend of February 12-14, 2016, the romance earned $339,319 from 163 theaters, a per-screen average of $2,082. Two factors make Fitoor‘s debut underwhelming. First, the movie opened in the most theaters of any Hindi film released in North America so far this year, but it earned substantially less in its opening weekend than either Airlift ($815,933 from 98 theaters) or Wazir ($575,908 from 127 theaters) did in their opening weekends.
Second, Monday’s Presidents’ Day holiday should have boosted Sunday returns significantly, since many people had the following day off of work. Even with the holiday’s help, Fitoor still finished fourth for the year in 3-day opening weekend per-screen average behind Airlift ($8,326), Wazir ($4,535), and Ghayal Once Again ($2,167), according to Bollywood Hungama. Box Office Mojo lists Fitoor‘s 4-day weekend total as $392,670 from 147 theaters ($2,671 average).
Other Hindi movies showing in North American theaters:
Airlift: Week 4; $71,668 from 35 theaters; $2,048 average; $1,804,937 total
Ghayal Once Again: Week 2; $38,856 from 34 theaters; $1,143 average; $270,418 total
Bajirao Mastani: Week 9; $1,987 from two theaters; $994 average; $6,561,698 total
Director Abhishek Kapoor presents a compelling look at the way money and power influence romance in Fitoor (“Obsession“), his adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations.
The scenery and set design of Fitoor are its defining features. From the very opening, one is blown away by the beauty of the setting: a small village in Kashmir with wooden walkways crisscrossing a lake. Everything — from the sky to the snowy ground to the characters’ clothes — is in overcast shades of grey, blue, and white.
Noor first appears in a flashback as an 8-year-old boy (played by Mohammed Abrar), a poor kid with a gift for drawing and sculpting. He helps his brother-in-law Junaid (Rayees Mohiuddin) with some repairs at the mansion of Begum Hazrat (Tabu). The brightly colored tapestries and decorations inside the mansion contrast the drab colors outside, but there’s a run-down quality to the interior. The mansion is a haunted house, with Begum the witch shrouded in a haze of hookah smoke.
Noor falls in love with Begum’s daughter, Firdaus (Tunisha Sharma), immediately upon seeing her. Her clothes are every bit as expensive as Noor’s are disheveled. Begum arranges for Noor to work at the mansion and serve as Firdaus’ playmate. It’s clear that Begum is manipulating Noor, but not to what end. When Begum unexpectedly ships Firdaus off to boarding school in London, the matron tells Noor that he must grow to be a man worthy of her daughter.
Flash-forward fifteen years to the present, and Noor (Aditya Roy Kapur) is an accomplished artist. An anonymous benefactor sets Noor up with a residency at an art gallery in Delhi, where Firdaus (Katrina Kaif) just happens to live. Though she remembers him fondly and enjoys his company, Firdaus’ plans for her future don’t include Noor. He, on the other hand, has a room full of paintings of her face.
There’s a great scene in which Firdaus tears apart the notion that, just because Noor loves her, she must love him in return. When she realizes her insistence that she doesn’t love him is falling on deaf ears, she says, “You won’t understand anything but your love.” Noor’s friend Aarif (Kunal Khyaan) backs Firdaus up: “It’s not like she lied to you.”
Besides love, the other force directing Noor’s life is money. Namely, someone else’s money, which compromises his ability to control his own destiny. A confusing sequence that reveals the truth about Noor’s benefactor feels shoehorned into the narrative. Though it needed more setup, the point is made that Noor will be a puppet until he can afford to pull his own strings.
Kapur gives a solid performance as the flawed lead character, tweaking his smile ever so slightly to communicate a range of emotions. Kaif is fitting match, playing Firdaus as warm but aloof, conveying the sense that she’s also been manipulated by Begum.
Tabu is creepy and hypnotic as the lonely heiress, who no longer sees people as people but as tools. She even refers to her daughter as “my doll.”
Two other supporting roles are worth noting for their quiet excellence: Khyaan as Aarif and Lara Dutta as Leena, the art gallery owner. Their characters attempt to stop Noor from causing a scene at an auction, and they convey their instructions to one another through glances. One brief shot consists of Dutta’s face in profile, the muscle in her jaw clenching. It’s great.
Fitoor is thought-provoking and lovely to look at. If nothing else, the beautiful Kashmir scenery makes for a rewarding trip to the theater.