Bareilly Ki Barfi got off to a flying start in North America, despite opening in a tiny number of theaters. From August 18-20, 2017, the romantic comedy earned $185,699 from 44 theaters. Its opening weekend per-theater average of $4,220 is sixth best for the year, just ahead of Hindi Medium‘s $3,892 average. In its second weekend of release, sleeper hit Hindi Medium added a theater and retained two-thirds of its opening weekend business. Its total earnings were ultimately 3.5 times its opening weekend total. If Bareilly Ki Barfi follows Hindi Medium‘s path, that would mean a second weekend total of around $125,000 and an ultimate total of $650,000. I hope Bareilly Ki Barfi can pull off that feat, because it’s really, really good.
Bareilly Ki Barfi wasn’t the only Hindi film to have a good weekend in North America. In its second weekend, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha held on to nearly 60% of its opening weekend returns, posting earnings of $398,182 from 143 theaters ($2,757 average). Its total earnings of $1,381,754 are already double the amount it earned last weekend. Akshay Kumar’s other headlining release of 2017 — Jolly LLB 2 — had a better opening weekend, whereas Toilet had the better second weekend, holding on to a greater share of its first weekend business. Let’s see how close Toilet can come to Jolly LLB 2‘s $1,641,082 total.
Other Hindi films still in North American theaters:
Badrinath Ki Dulhania held up really well in its second weekend in the face of monstrous competition from Beauty and the Beast, even adding four theaters in the United States. From March 17-19, 2017, Badrinath Ki Dulhania earned $413,488 from 174 theaters ($2,376 average; adjusted average of $2,651 from 156 theaters*). That’s a hold-over of 48% from its first weekend, the best of the year so far for a Bollywood film in North America, just ahead of Jolly LLB 2‘s 46% retention rate. If it follows Jolly LLB 2‘s trajectory and manages to earn 2.2 times its first weekend earnings over the course of its theatrical run, Badrinath Ki Dulhania could finish with a total of nearly $2 million. Its total earnings presently stand at $1,581,270.
Other Hindi movies showing in North America over the weekend:
The Ghazi Attack (all languages): Week 5: $2,825 from seven theaters; $404 average; $767,634 total
MSG Lion Heart 2: Week 2; $762 from one theater; $3,430 total
Jolly LLB 2: Week 6; $745 from one theater; $1,641,082 total
Commando 2: Week 3; $244 from two theaters; $122 average; $76,133 total
Rangoon: Week 4; $171 from two theaters; $86 average; $503,610 total
*Bollywood Hungama frequently counts Canadian theaters twice in when they report figures for a film’s first two weeks of release. When possible, I verify theater counts at Box Office Mojo, but I use Bollywood Hungama as my primary source because they provide a comprehensive and consistent — if flawed — data set.
Two new Hindi films open in the Chicago area on March 3, 2017, including my most highly anticipated Hindi movie of the whole year. Commando 2 is the followup to the awesome 2013 action flick Commando, starring Vidyut Jammwal, Bollywood’s best action star. He’s joined in the sequel by Esha Gupta and Adah Sharma.
I have no idea why this is releasing internationally. If Running Shaadi earned less than $15,000 here with recognizable actors and the backing of a major studio, I don’t know why anyone thinks a romance starring Salman Khan’s brother is worth the effort. Maybe the timing’s better. We’ll see.
Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai (god, I’m sick of typing this long-ass title already) opens Friday at MovieMax, South Barrington 30, Cantera 17, and AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 40 min.
Rangoon carries over for a second week at MovieMax, Cantera 17, and South Barrington 30, which also holds over Jolly LLB 2. MovieMax has the Hindi version of The Ghazi Attack/Ghazi as well as the English-subtitled Telugu version, which also gets a third weekend at Cinemark at Seven Bridges in Woodridge.
Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend:
Dwaraka (Telugu w/no subtitles) at MovieMax and Seven Bridges
Rangoon opened to okay numbers in North America. During the weekend of February 24-26, 2017, the World War II drama earned $310,077 from 114 theaters, average earnings of $2,720 per theater. This is not an atypical performance for a film by director Vishal Bhardwaj here, especially when his movies center upon a female lead character as opposed to a male lead character. His two other female-led movies — 2011’s 7 Khoon Maaf and 2013’s Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola — posted opening weekend earnings of $164,153 and $338,726, respectively, and both finished with total earnings of less than $500,000. By contrast, Bhardwaj’s films about male lead characters — 2006’s Omkara, 2009’s Kaminey, and 2014’s Haider — all opened better ($427,400; $726,834; and $538,999, respectively) and all finished their North American runs with earnings in excess of $1 million.
The Ghazi Attack turned in the second best performance for an Indian film in North America over the weekend. In its second weekend of release, it earned $109,045 from 74 theaters ($1,474 average), bringing its total earnings to $678,013. I suspect most theaters have stopped carrying the Hindi version of the film, and that the weekend’s earnings are attributable almost exclusively to the Telugu version.
The two other Hindi films in their second weekend of release did god-awful business here. Irada earned $147 from three theaters ($49 average), bringing its total to $19,112, while Running Shaadi took in $110 from two theaters ($55 average), bringing its total to $15,428. Jeepers.
Other Bollywood movies still in North American theaters:
Jolly LLB 2: Week 3; $75,423 from 57 theaters; $1,323 average; $1,630,972 total
Raees: Week 5; $7,837 from eight theaters; $980 average; $3,629,128 total
Dangal: Week 10; $2,575 from two theaters; $1,288 average; $12,357,576 total
Kaabil: Week 5; $259 from two theaters; $130 average; $1,412,501 total
Hindi films without A-list stars always face challenges at the North American box office, but February 17-19, 2017, seemed to be an especially difficult weekend for smaller titles. Here’s how the three new releases fared during the weekend in the United States and Canada:
The Ghazi Attack [combined earnings for Hindi, Telugu, & Tamil-dubbed versions]: $394,269 from 89 theaters* ($4,430 average); total including Thursday previews = $439,772
Running Shaadi: $10,260 from 58 theaters ($177 average)
*Here’s my weekly caveat that my main source, Bollywood Hungama, often counts the Canadian theaters twice in their opening weekend totals. The correct theater counts as confirmed by Sumit Chadha (and the adjusted averages) are as follows: The Ghazi Attack — 90 theaters, $4,381 avg.; Irada — 27 theaters, $486 avg.; Running Shaadi — 51 theaters, $201 avg.
Though The Ghazi Attack fared well, the figures for Irada and Running Shaadi are unmistakably bad. However, it’s worth pointing out a couple of mitigating factors at work this weekend. First, there are presently seven Hindi films showing in the US. Here’s how the older releases fared at the box office over the weekend:
Jolly LLB 2: Week 2; $345,480 from 190 theaters; $1,818 average; (*166 theaters, $2,081 avg.); $1,408,472 total
Raees: Week 4; $38,169 from 18 theaters; $2,121 average; $3,595,707 total
Kaabil: Week 4; $10,185 from ten theaters; $1,019 average; $1,409,691 total
Dangal: Week 9; $4,840 from four theaters; $1,210 average; $12,340,930 total
Not only did the new releases face stiff competition from Jolly LLB 2 — which held on to almost half of its opening weekend earnings in its second weekend — the three oldest releases also had better per-theater average earnings than either Irada or Running Shaadi.
However, competition isn’t the whole story. According to Box Office Mojo, business at the overall North American box office was down over 20% from the previous weekend, and the share of business for Indian and Pakistani films in North America dropped by roughly the same percentage. Whether due to a hangover following high-profile Hollywood and Bollywood releases last weekend or unseasonably warm weather in big markets like New York and Chicago drawing people outdoors, this was a tough weekend for new releases across the board.
Three(!) new Hindi films open in Chicago area theaters on February 17, 2017. The new movie getting the widest local release is the romantic-comedy Running Shaadi, starring Amit Sadh and the omnipresent Taapsee Pannu.
Also new this weekend is the eco-thriller Irada, starring Arshad Warsi and Naseeruddin Shah. It opens Friday at MovieMax and the South Barrington 30 and has a runtime of 1 hr. 49 min.
The third new film of the weekend is the submarine drama The Ghazi Attack, which stars Taapsee Pannu (again) opposite Rana Daggubati, Kay Kay Menon, and Atul Kulkarni. The film — alternatively titled Ghazi — was shot simultaneously in both Hindi and Telugu, and both (English subtitled) versions are showing at Cinemark at Seven Bridges in Woodridge and MovieMax, which also carries the Tamil-dubbed version of the film. The Ghazi Attack has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 3 min.
There’s something fascinating going on with Akshay Kumar’s box office returns in North America, and I’m not sure how to make sense of it. His latest film — Jolly LLB 2 — earned $743,719 from 197 theaters ($3,775 average) in the United States and Canada during its opening weekend of February 10-12, 2017. (Box Office Mojo lists the film as opening in 173 total theaters, making for an average of $4,299 per theater.) This total is consistent with the opening weekend returns of Kumar’s three 2016 releases — Airlift, Housefull 3, and Rustom — which ranged from $674,890 for Housefull 3 on the low-end and $815,933 for Airlift on the high-end. The only difference is that Jolly LLB 2 opened in sixty more theaters than Housefull 3, Kumar’s biggest release of last year, so one would’ve expected larger returns with Jolly LLB 2‘s wider release.
Here’s where things get weird. Kumar released four films in 2015: Baby, Gabbar is Back, Brothers, and Singh Is Bliing. Those four films opened in an average of 140 theaters — ranging from 99 for Baby to 181 for Brothers — so their opening weekend theatrical footprint was slightly larger than the average opening weekend theater count of 122 for his three 2016 releases (though still smaller than Jolly LLB 2‘s 197 theaters). The average total earnings for Kumar’s four 2015 releases was $721,024. Yet, Kumar’s three 2016 releases plus Jolly LLB 2 earned an average of $747,887 in their opening weekends! In the span of a year, Kumar became popular enough in North America than his films now earn the same amount in one weekend as they earned over their entire theatrical lifespan in 2015! How the heck does that happen?!
Those earnings aren’t just front-loaded, either. Kumar’s films have seen their box office longevity increase as well. In 2015, the average Kumar movie finished its theatrical run with a total that was 1.91 times the amount it earned in its opening weekend. In 2016, that average multiplier jumped to 2.26.
The other impressive anomaly at the North American box office this weekend is Dangal‘s performance in its eighth weekend in theaters. It earned $11,441 from six theaters ($1,907 average), bringing its total to $12,329,706. This is notable because Bollywood movies don’t earn more than $10,000 in a weekend by this point in their life-cycles. Even though Kapoor & Sons hung around theaters for ten weeks last spring, it stopped earning five figures after its sixth weekend.
Other Hindi movies showing in US and Canadian theaters:
Raees: Week 3; $105,069 from 63 theaters; $1,668 average; $3,508,519 total
Kaabil: Week 3; $40,343 from 34 theaters; $1,187 average; $1,373,722 total
In spite of a compelling performance by Akshay Kumar as Jolly LLB 2‘s flawed hero, narrative inconsistencies keep the well-intentioned black comedy from achieving its full potential.
Kumar plays Jolly Mishra — a different character from Arshad Warsi’s title character in the original Jolly LLB — an ambitious lawyer who yearns to be more than an errand boy for the more established attorney, Rizvi. In order to raise money to establish his own practice, Jolly assures a pregnant young widow, Hina (Sayani Gupta), that Rizvi will take on her case, collecting the fees from her up front and keeping them for himself.
Hina’s case is politically dangerous. She believes that her husband, Iqbal (Manav Kaul), was falsely arrested on terrorism charges and murdered by police, all for the sake of securing a promotion for notorious Officer Suryaveer Singh (Kumud Mishra). With crooked, wealthy Lucknow attorney Sachin Mathur (Annu Kapoor) defending Singh, every other lawyer knows that Hina’s case is a lost cause.
When Hina learns from Rizvi that he never agreed to take her case, she realizes that Jolly duped her, declaring as much in front of Jolly, his wife Pushpa (Huma Qureshi), and his father, who spent decades working as Rizvi’s legal secretary. Devoid of hope, Hina kills herself. Rizvi fires Jolly, and Jolly’s father tells his son he never wants to see him again.
Jolly is a complicated character. He’s a doting husband to drunken Pushpa and a loving father to their son, but he doesn’t work for any ideals higher than his own ambition. It’s impossible to pay penance for driving Hina to suicide, but Jolly takes on her case in the hopes of righting some of the wrongs he did by her and her family. Kumar’s grounded performance makes us believe that Jolly can become a better man by the end of the movie than he is at the beginning.
The case pits Jolly — who has the truth on his side — against the nakedly corrupt Mathur, who is sleazy in typical sleazy movie lawyer fashion. The presiding Judge Tripathy (Saurabh Shukla) isn’t explicitly corrupt, just distracted by his daughter’s upcoming nuptials.
Tripathy is the weak link in Jolly LLB 2. It’s hard to figure out how exactly he fits into the story. He’s not funny enough to provide true comic relief, but he’s clearly too light for a somewhat grim case involving suicide and extrajudicial police killings. He’s prone to drawing out conversations, leading to dull patches. Unlike the other characters, his balance is off.
The judge is also tasked by the script with driving the tension in the courtroom, but he’s not consistent in the way in which he does so. Tripathy believes or discounts witnesses’ testimony depending on the needs of the story at that moment, not because of any internal logic. Some of his other decisions are so blatantly provocative that it dispels the illusion of organic story flow. We can all but see writer-director Subhash Kapoor pulling the strings.
In Jolly LLB 2‘s favor, Kumar and Qureshi look great together and share a comfortable rapport. Rajiv Gupta is the film’s unsung hero as Jolly’s harried assistant, Birbal. Shukla’s dance sequence as Tripathy rehearses for his daughter’s wedding is pretty funny.
Jolly LLB 2‘s sentiment is admirable, especially at a time when citizens in India and around the world are desperate for reassurance that their justice systems aren’t fundamentally irreparable. The story just needed more refining to maintain a consistent tone throughout.
Akshay Kumar takes over the lead role from Arshad Warsi in the comedy sequel Jolly LLB 2, which opens in Chicago area theaters on February 10, 2017. Inconsistent subtitles made the original Jolly LLB incomprehensible for the Hindi illiterate (like me), but I’m confident that won’t be an issue in the followup, which co-stars my girl Huma Qureshi.