Big-opening comedies have been in short supply at the Indian box office in 2015, with only Eros International’s romcom sequel Tanu Weds Manu Returns hitting the mark in May.
But another Eros film, Welcome Back, burst unmistakably into the upper echelons this weekend with a 524m rupee ($7.8m) debut (unlisted on the Rentrak chart). That’s the third-highest domestic start this year, behind Baahubali (1.448bn rupees), Bajrangi Bhaijaan (1.026bn), and just scratching ahead of Brothers’ opening (521m) a few weeks back. Maybe the star of the latter, Akshay Kumar – who along with Katrina Kaif featured in the original 2007 Welcome – will be regretting not getting on board this time. Recycling the hot young lovers in the matrimonially themed series, with John Abraham and Shruti Haasan slotting in for the sequel, seems to have made no difference, with seasoned buffoons Anil Kapoor and Nana Patekar still crucially in place as matchmaking gangsters.
The critical consensus seems to be that trading up locations to Dubai has done a contrived sequel few favours, but it should still finish inside the Indian top 10 for the year – though not as high as Welcome, which was 2007’s No 2 film behind the Shah Rukh Khan thriller Om Shanti Om. Welcome Back is in a tight race with Kumar’s punch-up orgy Brothers, not holding up especially well with a current 880m rupee running total and a hefty 1.15bn rupee budget to balance out. Welcome Back, in comparison, cost a mere 880m rupees; not as bling as it would have you believe.
The overseas billionaires
Another auspicious landmark for Jurassic World: this week it became the fourth film to cross $1bn internationally, following Titanic, Avatar and Furious 7. Japan, the biggest overseas market for the first three Jurassics and typically the last one on release for JW, was the tipping point: even though it has dropped to the third biggest market (behind China, $228.7m, and the UK, $99.7m), the current $63.1m gross there is still pretty lively. Given that the overseas billionaire club only has four members, it’s an incredible achievement for Universal to have managed two in a single year.
In some ways, Jurassic World is the outlier of the lot: one-off event movies Titanic and Avatar’s total worldwide grosses were so monstrous that they were virtually guaranteed to pass $1bn abroad; Furious 7, relatively weak in the US, was predicated on using franchise power to fire up foreign petrolheads. But Jurassic World was somewhere between the two camps: surprisingly strong for a franchise film in the US (the third-highest grosser of all time), but also a steady performer abroad where, arguably, it had to reawaken dormant memories of the Spielberg original in competition with leaner, fitter 21st-century franchises. Job done.
The bottom feeders
It’s not the most eventful box-office frame, it has to be said, and in the absence of big blockbusting carnivores, the hagfish and the sea cucumbers of the cinema world are out, hoovering up leftover fiscal nutrients. The Transporter Refuelled, in seventh place on the global chart, opened at $7.1m in the States, poorest of the series so far – in the same range as Hitman: Agent 47’s $8.3m debut a fortnight ago, just to emphasise how these two genre nuggets are set up to make their money abroad. A mere $4m haul from 19 countries (though the figures haven’t been fully logged) for The Transporter Refuelled strongly suggest that Ed Skrein, taking over from Jason Statham in the lead, may only get a single shot at the role. A $22m budget takes the pressure off, but the possibility of a fifth film means approaching the third’s $77.3m overseas haul. Hitman: Agent 47 is putting the hours in, meanwhile, climbing back up to fourth place with $11.4m scavenged from 72 territories. It was a No 1 opening in Russia this week, matching the 2007’s original’s start in the country, in one of its best results. It’s closing on the first film’s $60.3m overseas, but it’ll have to hold up well beyond western Europe, where enthusiasm seems to have waned for the videogame-based property. Having the air of a full series relaunch, as opposed to a weary extra instalment for Transporter, might be what allows this bottom feeder to breed.
Zilch on the new-entries front this time. On the back of last week’s news that the first gay relationship in a Chinese film has been officially approved, it’s good to see boundary-pushing thriller The Dead End – which reportedly also has a homosexual subplot – still in ninth place and doing so well there.
While we’re refilling our quivers in wait for the final Hunger Games in November, fans of entertainingly youth-unfriendly YA material can settle for Scorch Trials, the second Maze Runner, which joins Divergent in becoming an up-and-running franchise. It’s looking to build on the first film’s $340.8m worldwide and an unusually high – for a first entry – 69.9% overseas split that confirmed how firmly embedded everywhere the YA mindset is now. It soft-opens in 10 markets this weekend, including the UK and Mexico, before a wider launch in the second weekend of September. Elsewhere, China gets Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation on 8 September, now over the $500m mark globally and puffing hard to match Ghost Protocol’s $694.7m. The major Bollywood release this week is the action romance Hero, a remake of the 1983 film of the same name about a gangster who falls in love with the chief of police’s daughter – an occupational hazard in the Indian criminal demimonde, it seems. Newcomers Sooraj Pancholi and Athiya Shetty, both from local acting stock, make their debuts here, and it’s produced by Salman Khan – whose appearance in the film could boost interest on the back of barnstorming Bajrangi Bhaijaan.
Top 10 global box office, 4-6 September
1. Straight Outta Compton, $16.7m from 14 countries. $168.3m cumulative – 10.8% int; 89.2% US
2. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, $16.6m from 65 territories. $509.1m cum – 64.6% int; 35.4% US
3. Minions, $13.6m from 58 territories. $1.04bn cum – 68.4% int; 31.6% US
4. Hitman: Agent 47, $13.6m from 72 territories. $62.9m cum – 68.7% int; 31.3% US
5. Ant-Man, $12.9m from 36 territories. $383.7m cum – 54.9% int; 45.1% US
6. Terminator Genisys, $11.6m from 8 territories. $435.9m cum – 79.4% int; 20.6% US
7. (New) The Transporter Refuelled, $11.1m from 19 territories. $11.6m cum – 38.7% int; 61.3% US
8. Inside Out, $10.2m from 37 territories. $734.4m cum – 52.6% int; 47.4% US
9. The Dead End, $9.9m from 1 territory. $41m cum – 100% int
10. The Man from UNCLE, $9.6m from 65 territories. $85.4m cum – 53.9% int; 46.1% US
• Thanks to Rentrak. This week’s figures are based on estimates; all historical figures unadjusted, unless otherwise stated.
This article was written by Phil Hoad, for theguardian.com on Monday 7th September 2015 17.44 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010