According to Bollywood Hungama, Khaali Peeli made $716 from nine theaters ($80 average) in the United States during the weekend of October 9-11, 2020. Its two-week US total stands at $3,721. Egads.
With Khaali Peeli presently showing at the AMC South Barrington 24 in South Barrington, I checked to see which of the Chicago area theaters that regularly carry Bollywood films are currently operating, and under what terms. If the government ruling allowing cinemas in India to reopen later this month prompts new Bollywood films to release theatrically, will there be a home for them here?
In the Chicago area, the answer is a definitive: probably? AMC theaters are obviously open, though hours and days of operation vary by location. The region’s only all-Indian theater — MovieMax Cinemas in Niles — is closed indefinitely because of the pandemic. Regal Entertainment is closing all 536 of its US theaters on Thursday, October 8, which takes out the Cantera (which carries almost every Hindi release) as well as the Regal Round Lake Beach.
Marcus Theaters in Addison and Elgin are open Friday-Sunday and Tuesday. You can order concessions online and pick them up in cinema for your own movie night or game night at home, which is pretty tempting (especially since I’m writing this right before lunch).
Theaters in the Cinemark family like Seven Bridges, Stratford Square, and Deer Park are open Friday-Sunday. Those theaters are traditionally more dependent upon new releases out of South India than Bollywood, but that may change since cinemas are desperate for new content.
Cinemark has a really cool (but pricey) program right now called the Private Watch Party. You can rent an entire screen for you and a group of up to 20 people to watch a new release or classic film all by yourselves. Locally, new releases are priced at $149, and older films at $99. My husband and I are planning to do this for just the two of us when Dune releases on December 18. [Scratch that: Dune just got pushed to October 21, 2021.] I’m not sure if this deal will apply to any Bollywood or South Indian films that may open in Cinemark theaters, but it could be a good option if you’re concerned about safety and/or if you have a large family.
It’s still unclear what the next Indian movie to open in Chicago theaters after Khaali Peeli would be. All of this could be moot if A) a spike in infections triggers theater closures in all or part of the region, or B) theater chains decide it’s not financially viable to operate under current conditions without blockbuster Hollywood content. For now, the take away is: if you feel it’s safe to return to cinemas and are desperate to watch an Indian movie on the big screen, head to South Barrington for Khaali Peeli while you can. Or you can just stay home, like me.
Update: In response to Regal’s planned closure later this week, AMC and Cinemark have vowed to continue operating during the pandemic, according to CNBC. Just to add some further perspective, when Baaghi 3 released on March 6, it did so in thirteen local theaters: 7 AMC theaters, 1 Cinemark, 2 Marcus, 2 Regal, and 1 independent (MovieMax). As of now, only three of those theaters will be closed if/when a new Bollywood title releases locally.
Holy crap, there’s box office news to report again! The Ananya Pandey-Ishaan Khatter masala flick Khaali Peeli released in India on the streaming service Zee5 on October 2. Since Zee5 isn’t available in the United States, the film opted to release here theatrically. I had no idea! So, how did Khaali Peeli‘s opening weekend in US theaters go?
NOT GOOD! From October 2-4, 2020, Khaali Peeli earned $2,421 from 14 theaters — an average of $173 per theater. The caveats are that theaters are operating with capacity restrictions and are probably showing films fewer times than they normally would to allow extra cleaning time between shows. Even still, these numbers are BAD.
Let’s use the Chicago area theater showing Khaali Peeli — the AMC South Barrington 24 — as an example. With so little new content available, the theater is devoting two full screens to Khaali Peeli. I didn’t see the theater’s schedule over the weekend, so let’s assume a minimum number of shows available: one on Friday and two on Saturday and Sunday on both screens, for ten showings total. Under that scenario, the theater made $17.30 per showing. Y.I.K.E.S.
Khaali Peeli may stick around for a while, but only because nothing else is coming out. To be fair, I don’t expect any other Indian films released here in the near future to do much better. And studios know that, too.