Bajirao Mastani and Dilwale closed out their third weekend in theaters, finalizing the North American box office rankings for Bollywood films released in 2015. From January 1-3, 2016, Bajirao Mastani earned $772,775 from 304 theaters ($2,542 average). During the same period, Dilwale earned $308,149 from 133 theaters ($2,317 average).
The ten highest earning Bollywood films of 2015 in North America were:
Bajrangi Bhaijaan had the best opening weekend in 2015, both in terms of total gross ($2,613,192) and per-screen average ($9,468). Bajirao Mastani has already proven to have the best longevity of any 2015 release, having nearly quadrupled its opening weekend total in just three weeks.
2015 set a new benchmark for blockbuster releases, with both Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Prem Ratan Dhan Payo opening in more than 300 theaters in North America (304 and 310, respectively). Though PK (296) and Bang Bang (292) came close in 2014, it’s worth noting how rapid this increase in theater counts has been. The widest release in 2013 was Dhoom 3 on 239 screens, and 2012’s biggest release, Talaash, opened in just 172 theaters. More people than ever before can watch Bollywood films on the big screen in the United States and Canada.
It’s also worth noting that all of the films in the 2015 top ten were released between May and December. Shahrukh Khan’s Fan — scheduled for release on April 15 — should easily make it into the 2016 top ten, but it remains to be seen if any of the other Bollywood flicks opening in the first third of the year will prove to be breakout hits. Do any of the films on this list seem like contenders to you?
As has been the case in recent weeks, a lopsided portion of those earnings came from Canada. The per-screen average (psa) of the nine Canadian theaters showing PKP2 was $2,506, compared to the $1,721 psa in the 49 American theaters.
The disparity was pronounced in the other Hindi films showing in North America as well. Here are the rest of the weekend’s earnings, including both the Canadian and American per-screen averages:
Jazbaa: Week 2; $57,934 from 71 total theaters; Canada psa = $1,004; USA psa = $752; total earnings to date = $386,714
Singh Is Bliing: Week 3; $30,951 from 33 total theaters; Canada psa = $1,651; USA psa = $628; total earnings to date = $905,806
Talvar: Week 3; $25,233 from 24 total theaters; Canada psa = $485; USA psa = $1,132; total earnings to date = $322,149
Kis Kisko Pyaar Karoon: Week 4; $284 from two total theaters; Canada psa = $20; USA psa = $264; total earnings to date = $351,167
One new Bollywood film opens in Chicago area theaters on October 16, 2015: the comedy sequel Pyaar Ka Punchnama 2. This is a huge surprise, considering that the 2011 original didn’t release in the US and the cast of the new film is made up of virtual unknowns. Distributors are counting on the familiarity of the title and a lack of competition to bring people to the theater. We’ll see if the gamble pays off.
Jazbaa turned in a disappointing opening weekend in North America. During the weekend of October 9-11, 2015, Jazbaa earned $233,186 from 132 theaters ($1,767 average).
Jazbaa‘s performance helps define a kind of Bollywood dead zone at the North American box office, in which movies opening in the 120-140 theater range consistently under-perform. In addition to Jazbaa, three other films have opened in this same range, and all have posted disappointing opening weekend per-theater averages: Tevar (125 theaters/$1,007 average), Shamitabh (137 theaters/$1,573 average), and Katti Batti (127 theaters/$1,507 average). Perhaps the lesson for distributors is that, if you aren’t confident that a given movie could carry 150 theaters, better to limit its release to around 100 theaters. All the better for avoiding the appearance of a flop.
Singh Is Bliing finished the weekend in second place among the four Hindi films playing in North America. It added another $173,329 from 108 theaters ($1,605 average) to bring its two-week total to $808,310.
Talvar held up very well, losing only 37% percent of its opening weekend business (compared to Singh Is Bliing‘s 64% drop). Talvar earned $83,211 from 47 theaters ($1,770 average), bringing its two-week total to $269,253.
Kis Kisko Pyaar Karoon closed out its third weekend, adding $6,828 from seven theaters ($975 average) to its total haul of $347,289.
This weekend provided yet more fuel for my obsession with the differences in the American and Canadian markets for Bollywood films (the figures above are for the entire North American territory, but Rentrak breaks the figures down by country). Here’s a comparison of each film’s US and Canadian per-theater averages:
Another new release with a South Asian focus is the documentary He Named Me Malala, about the heroic teen activist Malala Yousafzai. It opens on Friday across the Chicago area and the nation. Click here for a national theater list.
The North American box office report for October 2-4, 2015 offers an interesting look at what kinds of Bollywood movies are more popular in Canada than the United States. Spoiler alert: Canadians love comedies.
Singh Is Bliing got the wider release of the weekend’s two new films, debuting in 160 theaters: 140 in the US, 20 in Canada. It earned $478,888 total in North America, for average earnings of $2,993 per screen. Those 20 Canadian theaters — which made up about 13% of the total number of theaters showing the movie in North America — accounted for nearly a third of the film’s total earnings ($152,743). Those Canadian theaters saw average earnings of $7,637 per screen, versus an average of $2,330 in US theaters showing Singh Is Bliing.
By contrast, earnings for the weekend’s other new release — the crime drama Talvar — were divided among the countries more predictably. Talvar earned a total of $132,084 from 59 theaters in North America ($2,239 average). Canada’s nine theaters (15% of the total) contributed about 13% of the total earnings ($17,508).
The performance of second-weekend holdover Kis Kisko Pyaar Karoon confirms Canadian filmgoers’ fondness for Bollywood comedies. KKPK took in another $46,169 from 42 theaters across North America ($1,099 average), bringing its two-week total to $324,993. Nearly half of that amount — $22,697 — came from the 13 Canadian theaters carrying the film. The average earning per screen in Canada ($1,746) was more than double the US average ($809).
Singh Is Bliing is an imperfect but entertaining action comedy, and one of Prabhu Deva’s better directorial ventures. The movie offers one of the year’s best comic performances, from an unlikely source.
Akshay Kumar stars as Raftaar Singh, a totally different character from the one he played in 2008’s Singh Is Kinng. The two movies have nothing to do with each other, except that calling Singh Is Bliing a sequel provides a reason for Kumar to play a Punjabi Sikh again, as if one needs a reason.
Raftaar is a typical Bollywood layabout, far too old be mooching off his parents (Kumar is 48). He’s got a pair of lackeys — Pappi (Arfi Lamba) and Pompi (Anil Mange) — who follow him about. Raftaar’s father gives his son an ultimatum: take a job with Dad’s buddy in Goa, or marry an overweight woman, which is apparently a form of punishment.
Dad’s buddy (Pradeep Rawat) assigns Raftaar and his boys the task of guarding Sara (Amy Jackson), daughter of the boss’s friend, who also happens to be an international arms dealer. The problem is that Sara only speaks English, and Raftaar and his friends only speak Hindi.
They hire a translator, Emily (Lara Dutta), who immediately steals the whole film. Dutta is hilarious. Emily gets so into her role that she starts imitating Raftaar’s mannerisms, not just translating his words. She busts out some funky dance moves in a bar after matching Raftaar shot-for-shot.
A particularly clever song sequence sees one of Raftaar’s romantic daydreams about Sara made manifest. Pappi and Pompi notice Raftaar staring into space and decide to join him in his dream, dragging Emily in with them. As the boys provide the background music, Emily serves as Raftaar’s romantic surrogate, herself wooing Sara as she sings in English what Raftaar has just sung in Hindi. It’s very funny and smart.
Unfortunately, the rest of the plot isn’t as intelligent. Multiple story threads fail to come together in a satisfactory way. The big villain of the film — an arms dealer named Mark (Kay Kay Menon) who is a rival of Sara’s father — is a total afterthought, and his few scenes are poorly integrated into the rest of the story. He doesn’t steer the plot until the very end of the film, so Raftaar and Sara are in little serious danger for the bulk of the picture.
This is a shame, because Menon is a skilled scenery chewer. Sporting a ponytail, Menon channels Terry Silver from Karate Kid III, enhancing the similarity by shouting “I like it!”
In a surprising reversal of gender norms, Jackson gets to perform the best fight choreography, while Kumar plays Raftaar as brave but bumbling. Jackson is perfectly suited for action roles, but her acting and dancing could use some work if she wants to branch out. Kumar is likable as ever.
Though Singh Is Bliing isn’t overtly misogynistic like some of Prabhu Deva’s earlier films, there’s a disappointing sequence of victim blaming. Raftaar instructs a pair of women being manhandled by a pair of lecherous men to fight back. He takes the idiotic view that women can prevent sexual assault simply by slapping their attackers.
When the ladies kick their attackers into submission, Raftaar feels vindicated in his opinion (never mind that the two attackers know that Raftaar is waiting to pummel them should they overpower the women).
Later, Sara annihilates a room full of goons, and Pappi and Pompy credit her success to Raftaar’s speech. It’s unclear if this is meant to be a joke, but the statement is followed immediately by a shot of some dancers — one of whom had earlier been punched in the face — hitting the fallen goons, seeming to validate Raftaar as deserving of credit.
Though Singh Is Bliing falls short of its potential, surprisingly fun performances by Dutta, Menon, and butt-kicking Amy Jackson keep the sequel from ever being dull.