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
Ghayal Once Again opened to big numbers in North America, while Sanam Teri Kasam flopped hard. During the weekend of February 5-7, 2016, Ghayal Once Again earned $173,395 from 80 theaters ($2,167 average). This impressive debut for the Sunny Deol sequel was due primarily to his devoted Canadian fans. 43% of the movie’s total opening weekend gross came from 13 theaters in Canada, which accounted for just 16% of the total number of theaters in North America. The per-screen average for those Canadian theaters was $5,702, compared to $1,482 per screen in the United States.
Sanam Teri Kasam had the worst opening weekend of 2016 so far, which is saying something. It earned just $21,660 from 37 theaters, for a pathetic average of just $585. The recent anemic earnings of Sanam Teri Kasam, Mastizaade, and Kyaa Kool Hain Hum 3 make the case for same-day digital rental in North America, rather than theatrical releases for films that won’t bring people to the cinema. A few films tried same-day rental back in 2010 before the test was largely abandoned, but I’d love to see Eros Now revisit it.
Bollywood Hungama — which gets its information from Rentrak — didn’t post weekend earnings for Airlift, which still has a large presence in North American theaters.
Other Hindi movies still showing in North American theaters:
Bajirao Mastani: Week 8; $4,347 from four theaters; $1,087 average; $6,558,711 total
Saala Khadoos: Week 2; $3,831 from eight theaters; $479 average; $88,381 total
Mastizaade: Week 2; $2,233 from two theaters; $1,117 average; $43,403 total
Wazir: Week 5; $818 from three theaters; $273 average; $1,112,655 total
Kyaa Kool Hain Hum 3: Week 3; $190 from one theater; $31,914 total
For the third week in a row, two new Hindi films are opening in the Chicago area. The sequel Ghayal Once Again — starring Sunny Deol — is one of the two new releases hitting theaters on February 5, 2016.
January 29-31, 2016, was an awful weekend for new Bollywood movies in North America. Let’s look first at the better of the two new releases. According to Rentrak data supplied to Bollywood Hungama, Saala Khadoos earned $62,920 from 58 theaters ($1,085 average). Those figures are slightly lower than those reported by Box Office Mojo — $76,931 from 70 theaters; $1,099 average. Things look rosier when factoring in collections from the Tamil version of the film, Irudhi Suttru: $83,994 from 35 theaters ($2,399 average).
The weekend’s other new release — Mastizaade — got trounced. It earned just $28,529 from 46 theaters for a per-screen average of $620. It performed so poorly that, as of Tuesday, my local theater had cut back from four showings per day to just one. Its average is even worse than Kyaa Kool Hain Hum 3‘s first-weekend average of $716. For a look into Mastizaade‘s bleak future, note that KKHH3 took in just $913 from eight theaters in its second weekend ($114 average), bringing its total to $31,444.
The lesson to be learned here is: don’t open Hindi sex comedies in North America. There is no demographic here yearning for sex comedies with no sex, especially not when there are racier Hollywood alternatives in theaters and a world of raunchy stuff available to anyone with an internet connection.
There’s possibly another lesson to be learned from Saala Khadoos. Sports movies are among the most easily accessible across cultures thanks to their formulaic nature and the fact that people everywhere share a love for sport, so why not adapt the advertising in the hopes of nabbing people outside of the usual target audience?
Look at the poster for Saala Khadoos. There’s nothing on the poster to indicate that it’s about boxing, and the title isn’t informative even if you know Hindi. Why not follow the route of festivals films and release it internationally with an evocative English title — Fighting Spirit or something like that — and then have R. Madhavan squaring off with Ritika Singh on the poster. As it stands, the poster only appeals to people who are already Madhavan fans.
In contrast, check out the poster for Neerja. It’s clearly a hijacking thriller set on a plane, and the woman with the gun pointed at her is dressed as a flight attendant. The text at the top reads “Fear gave her courage,” so we know that she must be the hero. The poster is geared toward people who haven’t already heard of the film, hoping to entice them to buy a theater ticket or add the movie to their Netflix queue. Sonam Kapoor fans are going to buy a ticket no matter what, so there’s no need to cater to them.
As for other Hindi movies still showing in North America, Airlift won the weekend, adding another $482,307 from 101 theaters ($4,775 average) to bring its two-week total to $1,534,443. Those figures may be on the low side since Rentrak didn’t report separate second-weekend earnings from Canada.
Wazir added another $7,513 from 11 theaters ($683 average) to bring its four-week total to $1,109,233. Bajirao Mastani closed out its seventh weekend with $6,966 from six theaters ($1,161 average). Its total stands at $6,551,448.
Writer-director Sudha Kongara’s Saala Khadoos (“Mr. Snooty,” according to the English subtitles) is a moving tale that utilizes all the best elements of sports movies past. Ritika Singh makes a splash in her debut, working opposite R. Madhavan in this story of two hot-headed boxers working toward a common goal.
Madhavan plays Adi, a boxing coach still smarting over the abrupt end to his own fighting career nearly twenty years ago. Dev (Zakir Hussain), the man who sabotaged Adi’s career, now heads the Indian Women’s Boxing Federation. Fearful that Adi will make public what he knows of Dev’s past misdeeds — as well as the chairman’s penchant for trading places on the national team for sex — Dev exiles Adi to the boxing backwater of Chennai.
Despite being set up to fail, Adi finds a promising fighter who has as little respect for authority as he does. Madhi (Singh) is the younger sister of the Chennai club’s top prospect, Lux (Mumtaz Sorcar). Madhi is a better natural fighter than Lux, but it’s Madhi’s fiery temper that leads Adi to focus his attention on her, at Lux’s expense.
As much as the story is about the personality changes that Adi and Madhi undergo while he tries to turn her into a champion, Saala Khadoos is also a story of sibling rivalry. Lux has always been special, the one who will finally lift her family out of poverty. A successful boxing career will confer her a spot in the police academy, and all of the family’s resources to this point have gone toward helping her reach that goal. Madhi’s success in the ring threatens not only Lux’s future but her very identity.
An old assistant coach (played by Nasser) explains the significance of the local conditions to Adi. All of the young women who train at the gym are poor, and boxing is a lifeline, not just a hobby. Adi can be as much of a hard-ass as he wants during training, but he’s morally obligated not to abandon them.
Adi’s character evolution is predictably slow. He’s never really cared about anyone before, and Dev’s betrayal still weighs heavily on him. Likewise, Madhi’s attitude problems make her hard to love. She’s been on the defensive for so long that she has trouble trusting anyone’s motives.
Singh is so much fun to watch as Madhi. That defensive attitude is reflected in her posture, her shoulders hunched protectively, giving away her confident swagger as the bluff it is. When Madhi hurts her right hand just before a fight, she spends the entire round holding her hand out of the way to avoid further injury.
Madhavan is terrific as well, looking especially cool as Adi rides his motorcycle during the opening credits. Nasser and Sorcar are super in their supporting roles, and Hussain is slimy as can be as the villain.
The weekend’s other new release is the sex comedy Mastizaade, starring Sunny Leone, Vir Das, and Tusshar Kapoor. Last weekend saw the release of another sex comedy starring Tusshar Kapoor, and that movie totally flopped in the US. The timing of this could not be worse, regardless of whether Mastizaade is any good (which seems unlikely).
Mastizaade opens on Friday at the South Barrington 30, Cantera 17, and AMC River East 21 in Chicago. It has a listed runtime of 1 hr. 48 min.