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October 20, 1999
Mast Messes Up In America
Aseem Chhabra in New York
More than 100,000 people had a grand time this weekend, spending nearly $ one million, but at the 25 movie houses showing Ramgopal Varma's Mast, there was a ghostly pale.
The Navratri/dandiya raas festivities had a disastrous affect on the new Bollywood films, Mast, Vaastav and Sar Ankhon Par, all of which performed poorly at the box office. And the worst hit among them was the glossy, well-advertised Ramgopal Varma movie.
According to Hollywood trade publication Daily Variety, Varma's Mast grossed a mere $ 83,882 during the opening weekend with an anemic $3,355 screen average. Eros Entertainment had released the film on 25 screens.
By comparison, this summer's blockbuster hit -- Subhash Ghai's Taal (also released by Eros) grossed $ 600,000 in its opening weekend with a per screen average of $ 13,438.
Several other recent movies which performed below expectation had much bigger grosses than Mast.
Hello Brother and Dil Kya Kare, each opened with more than $ 150,000. Mast stars Urmila Matondkar with a young newcomer, Aftab.
The other film released by Eros -- Mahesh Manjrekar's Vaastav, starring Sanjay Dutt and Namrata Shirodkar, grossed less than $ 37,000 on 16 screens.
Behram Shahparast, a spokesperson for Eros Entertainment, said the holiday season, especially the huge Navratri events organized in Edison, NJ and across the country kept the audiences away from the movie theaters.
"We suffered because of the festival season," Shahparast said. "Everyone who has seen the two films loved them. We had faith in them. The advance word of mouth was good, but the competing events drew bigger crowds."
People might have also stayed away from Mast because they did not know much about the film's lead actor, Aftab, Shahparast added. He said that North American audiences for Bollywood films tend to be drawn to bigger names and are reluctant to experiment with unknown stars.
Shahparast said he did not expect the films to pick up next week since the Navratri events continue into next weekend. Mast could end its North American run with about $ 180,000.
Some moviegoers, who loved Mast, felt it had somehow not connected with the audiences.
"Despite people spending a lot of money on Navratri celebrations, there could have easily combined Mast and dandiya had there been good word of mouth for the movie," said Deepan Bajwa, a moviegoer.
Meanwhile Daily Variety did not report the gross box receipts for third new film Bollywood film -- Vivek Vaswani's Sar Ankhon Par. The publication only reports the weekend gross figures for the top 60 films in North America.
A spokesperson for Video Sound, the distributor of Sar Ankhon Par said the film's gross were very low. Video Sound had released the film on five screens across North America.
Kishor Dadlaney of Video Sound said his company had not expected big results from the film. However, he added that the Navratri festival did further damage to the film's box office receipts.
Deepa Mehta's Earth continued to do steady business in North America. For the weekend ending October 17, the film's gross box office had increased by 34 per cent over the prior weekend. Earth is currently showing on 17 screens. This weekend the film opened in two cities -- Boston and Chicago, both of which are big markets for art house/foreign films.
According to Daily Variety, Earth has grossed over $ 375,000 since it opened on September 10. In United Kingdom, it has grossed about $ 180,000.
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