This has been a lousy year for Yash Raj Films. Hopes were undoubtedly high after the titanic success of Dhoom 3 at the end of 2013, but none of the five films released by the company in 2014 has made much of a blip on the radar in North America.
Kill Dil‘s performance from November 14-16, 2014, cements that trend. During its opening weekend in the United States and Canada, Kill Dil earned $172,001 from 87 theaters, a per-screen average of $1,977.
To put this performance in context, the median number of opening weekend theaters for Hindi films in North America this year is 70, and the median per-screen average earnings are $2,022. All but one of the films released by Yash Raj Films this year opened in more theaters than the median (Bewakoofiyaan didn’t), but only one earned more than the median per-screen average (Gunday). Here’s how each Yash Raj film performed in its opening weekend in the U.S. and Canada this year:
Gunday: $548,350 from 150 theaters; $3,656 average
Bewakoofiyaan: $67,738 from 66 theaters; $1,026 average
Mardaani: $168,997 from 86 theaters; $1,965 average
Kill Dil: $172,001 from 87 theaters; $1,977 average
While none of these performances — except for Bewakoofiyaan — is disastrous, the studio and theaters surely expected more. Even Gunday was likely expected to earn $1 million (it fell short with $887,675 total). The name Yash Raj carries enough clout to command a significant number of screens, but the return on those screens should be higher given the studio’s profile and the emerging young stars and veteran talent the company casts.
Other Hindi movies still in North American theaters:
Happy New Year: Week 4; $64,792 from 45 theaters; $1,440 average; $3,702,530 total
Bhopal: A Prayer for Rain: Week 2; $5,794 from two theaters; $2,897 average; $12,110 total
The Shaukeens: Week 2; $735 from six theaters; $123 average; $75,546 total
Eros Now recently added the Hindi version of Kochadaiiyaan to its catalog. With four other 2014 releases already in the catalog — Purani Jeans, Dekh Tamasha Dekh, Main Tera Hero, and Dishkiyaoon — the $7.99 monthly subscription fee seems like a good deal.
Shaadi Ke Side Effects got off to a great start in its debut weekend in North American theaters, February 28 – March 2, 2014. This shouldn’t be much of a surprise for an accessible, family-friendly romantic comedy featuring two supremely talented actors. SKSE took in $578,346 from 108 theaters (according to Bollywood Hungama). Its per screen average of $5355 is the second highest first-weekend return of any Hindi film to open in the United States and Canada in 2014.
The Hindi film with this year’s highest U.S. per screen average also released this weekend. The Lunchbox debuted in just three American theaters on February 28 but earned $40,634: a per screen average of $13,545! According to Box Office Mojo — whose earnings totals differ slightly from those supplied by Bollywood Hungama — The Lunchbox had the best per screen average of any movie playing in the U.S. over the weekend.
The Lunchbox opens in eleven additional theaters on March 7 and in many more theaters across the U.S. in the coming weeks. The stellar box office returns of The Lunchbox — which is being distributed in America by Sony Pictures Classic — goes to show just how well an Indian movie can perform in the U.S. with the benefit of some marketing to the masses. If only sophisticated films like Dedh Ishqiya and Highway had received such support.
Speaking of Highway, business for the road-trip drama fell significantly in its second weekend. It earned $94,030, bringing its North American total to $489,860. With the potential for three new Hindi movies to hit theaters on March 7, I don’t expect Highway to stick around for a third weekend.
Also likely to make way on Friday are Gunday (which has earned $887,675 in its three weeks in North American theaters) and Hasee Toh Phasee ($642,632 in four weeks).
The romantic comedy Shaadi Ke Side Effects (“The Side Effects of Marriage“) opens in Chicago area theaters on February 28, 2014. The film is a sequel to 2006’s Pyaar Ke Side Effects, with Vidya Balan and Farhan Akhtar taking over the lead roles of Trisha and Sid from original stars Mallika Sherawat and Rahul Bose.
Chicago fans long-awaiting the U.S. release of The Lunchbox will have to wait a little longer. It also releases in the U.S. on Friday, but only in New York and L.A. The Lunchbox opens in the Chicago area on March 7. Click here for the full list of where The Lunchbox will open in the U.S over the course of the next two months.
After posting solid first-weekend earnings, the wonderful drama Highway carries over for a second week at all of the above theaters except for the Woodridge 18. The South Barrington 30 gives a third weekend to Gunday and a fourth weekend to Hasee Toh Phasee.
The terrific drama Highway opened in 97 North American theaters on February 21, 2014, earning $326,654 in its first weekend (according to Box Office Mojo). Its per screen average of $3,368 bested all but three films in the top twenty. While $326,654 is a respectable return, it’s less than the first-week earnings of director Imtiaz Ali’s past projects.
In the summer of 2009, Love Aaj Kal produced Ali’s best-ever box office results in North America. Love Aaj Kalearned $1,241,762 from 102 theaters in its opening weekend ($12,174 average), ultimately raking in $2,430,083.
Ali’s unconventional romantic drama Rockstar performed well when it debuted in the fall of 2011, earning $612,235 from 112 theaters ($5,466 average) in its opening weekend. Rockstar went on to gross a total of $986,697.
Another summer romantic comedy scored for Ali in 2012, when Cocktail — a movie Ali wrote, but did not direct — earned $647,956 from 96 North American theaters in its first weekend ($6,750 average).
Over the course of their four- or five-week theatrical runs in North America, the total earnings for Ali’s past movies were nearly double what they earned in their opening weekend in theaters. Highway could fall short of doubling its initial take for a couple of reasons.
First, the release of Shaadi Ke Side Effects — a more conventional rom-com starring Vidya Balan and Farhan Akhtar — on February 28 could put a serious dent in Highway‘s second-weekend earnings. None of Ali’s other projects faced any new competition in their second weekend.
Second, Highway is likely to lose a significant number of screens on March 7 when three relatively high-profile movies release on the same day: Gulaab Gang, Total Siyapaa, and Queen.
For Highway to ultimately earn around $600,000 in North America, it’s going to need positive word of mouth to drive people to the theater this week and through next weekend. Given that I’ve heard from a couple of people who’ve already watched it twice in the theater, a $600,000 total is possible.
In its second weekend in U.S. and Canadian theaters, Gunday earned $122,188 from 118 screens ($1,035 average), bringing its total to $842,637 (according to Bollywood Hungama).
That may sound impressive, but consider that Hasee Toh Phasee posted average third week earnings of $1306 per screen ($36,587 from 28 screens) in the same weekend. While Hasee Toh Phasee‘s overall total is lower — $634,099 so far — it remains a better investment for theaters than Gunday.
Gunday turned in a fine performance in North America in its first weekend of release. The Yash Raj Films production got a relatively wide roll-out in 150 theaters in the U.S. and Canada, and it earned $548,350 (according to Bollywood Hungama) for a per screen average of $3656.
Though stars like Priyanka Chopra and Irrfan Khan feature in supporting roles, Gunday‘s success rests on the shoulders of the two lead actors: Arjun Kapoor and Ranveer Singh. Kapoor’s two previous films — Ishaqzaade and Aurangzeb — didn’t make a splash in U.S. theaters, so it’s best to compare Gunday‘s opening week in the U.S. and Canada to the opening weekends of Singh’s earlier films.
2013 was a better year for Singh, when he ventured out from under the Yash Raj banner. Lootera took in $314,958 from 100 theaters ($3150 average) its opening weekend, going on to earn a total of $581,813.
Editor’s note: So, a lot of people have been coming to this review via IMDb, because Gunday is — after just one week in theaters — already the lowest-rated movie of all time. Lower than The Hottie and the Nottie, Birdemic, and even Manos: The Hands of Fate. As of February 22, it’s at 1.2/10, a full .8 ahead of its nearest competitor.
Is Gunday really that bad? As a movie, no. You can read below how I thought it was problematic, but passable.
Then why is it ranked as IMDb’s worst movie ever? It looks like the movie’s portrayal of the Bangladesh Liberation War has angered a lot of people, who have coordinated to give it as many 1/10 reviews as possible. Look at the IMDb user reviews, and several of them have the exact same title: “Manipulating Bangladesh’s Liberation War history.”
Unfortunately, I’m not familiar with the true events that Gunday references. So while I still think it’s okay as a film, I certainly wouldn’t vouch for it being historically accurate!
Abrupt changes in tone and an abundance of slow-mo keep Gunday (“The Outlaws“) from establishing its own voice or finding a rhythm.
The story begins in 1971 at the end of the war that established Bangladesh as an independent nation. 14-year-old orphans Bikram (Darshan Gurjar) and Bala (Jayesh V. Kardak) survive the deprivation of a refuge camp by working as gun runners. When Bala shoots an army officer to save Bikram’s life, the boys flee to Calcutta.
Fast-forward ten years, and Bikram (Ranveer Singh) and Bala (Arjun Kapoor) are the unofficial kings of Calcutta, controlling all of the city’s black market commodities. The buddies do everything together, while savvy Bikram keeps Bala’s temper in check.
As soon as the guys’ present-day circumstances are established, an anchor drops onto the plot in the form of a love interest: a cabaret dancer named Nandita (Priyanka Chopra).
The premise that two guys are such good buddies that they decide to share the same girl could be cute in a more lighthearted movie than this one. But Gunday starts out grim, and it returns to being so once Nandita chooses one guy over the other. The thirty-minute wacky romantic-comedy interval doesn’t fit.
That’s not the only aspect of Gunday that doesn’t make sense tonally. Action sequences vary from dramatic and realistic to outright loony. Bala causes an earthquake before shooting up through the ground, as though propelled by a geyser. A fish is wielded as a deadly weapon.
The goofy action sequences are pretty entertaining, but again, they don’t feel right in the context of the movie. Gunday would’ve been better had writer-director Ali Abbas Zafar established surreal action as the dominant tone of the movie.
Such a tone would’ve also explained the volume of slow-motion used in the film. Walking, running, dancing: seemingly every form of motility is presented in slow-motion. The impact of the two scenes in the movie that actually benefit from the treatment is dulled by its application to so many mundane activities.
There is a ridiculous amount of skin on display in Gunday, and not just by Chopra’s cabaret dancer. In the movie’s funniest fight scene, Bikram and Bala exchange blows, ripping off each other’s shirts in the process. The shirts come off in slow-mo (of course), exposing Singh’s and Kapoor’s hairless, tanned, greased-up, muscular torsos. It’s not supposed to be as hilarious as it is.
As much attention as is given to the guys’ muscles — with special attention paid to Singh’s perky buns — Irrfan Khan wins for Best Body, and he gets to keep his clothes on.
Khan’s star power is on full display as the police inspector tasked with bringing down Bikram and Bala and returning order to Calcutta. Saurab Shukla’s understated role as the lawyer who watches over Bikram and Bala is also notable.
Chopra is fine as Nandita, though she’s not given much to do besides look sexy, early on. Her performance improves as Nandita realizes the consequences of having strained the friendship between the two gangsters.
It almost seems as if the role of Bikram was written with Singh in mind, and his charisma is undeniable. Kapoor is very good at playing edgy anti-heroes, and it’s a shame when Bala gets turned into a mindless beefcake goofball during the romance portion of the movie. His hair-trigger is shelved for the sake of song-and-dance numbers and out-of-place comedy bits.
As a surreal dark comedy or action flick, Gunday could’ve been really interesting, but there’s no place for light romantic tomfoolery in such a film. A clear vision rather than a please-all approach would’ve done wonders.
With the new year just around the corner, there are a ton of new trailers out promoting movies scheduled for release in 2014. Let’s start with the biggest flick first: Salman Khan’s Jai Ho, opening January 24.
The trailer — like most of the trailers below — doesn’t have English subtitles, so I’m obviously missing out on the dialogue. Based on the visuals, I can’t see what differentiates this from any other recent Salman Khan film. I find Salman charming, but I’m tired of watching him play the same part: a morally perfect, invincible hero whose only character flaw is that he doesn’t have a girlfriend at the start of the movie. I want to see Salman play a character with room for growth: a washed up boxer who takes to the ring for one last fight, even though it might kill him; an upright family man who risks his reputation to save his wife and kids; an undercover cop whose constant lion-roaring threatens to blow his cover.
Next up is the romantic comedy Hasee Toh Phasee, releasing on February 7. Parineeti Chopra is terrific, so I’m looking forward to this.
The excellent costumes look like reason enough to see Gunday when it comes out on February 14.
Check out the gorgeous scenery in director Imtiaz Ali’s Highway, opening February 21.