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September 22, 1999
Earth Picks Up Momentum
Aseem Chhabra in New York
Deepa Mehta's Earth picked up in the limited art house run in the US. According to figures released by the Hollywood trade publication, Daily Variety, in the first 10 days of its run, the film grossed a respectable $ 104,000.
Currently the film is showing on nine screens in New York, Los Angeles, Houston and San Diego. In the next three months, its distributor, Zeitgeist Films, plans to open it on 18 more screens in nine states, from Massachusetts to Hawaii.
Meanwhile, Subhash Ghai's super hit film, Taal, nearly reached the $ 2 million mark in the North American market and about $ 800,000 in United Kingdom. A spokesman for Eros Entertainment said that as of September 19, Taal had grossed $ 1,904,000 in North America. Taal opened on August 13 on 44 screens and is still showing on 39. Now on its last legs, it grossed about $ 90,000 last week.
In the opening weekend (September 10 to -12), Earth was the number one art house movie in New York. In the second weekend the film had slipped to the number three position. Two new art house releases, American Beauty and Romance, both of which opened on Friday, September 17, took up the top box office positions.
"The thing that is important to us is whether the films has legs," Emily Russo, the co-president of Zeitgeist Films said in an interview from her office in New York. "We are more interested in how much longer does a film stay in a theater than in what it grosses in a given weekend."
Russo added that all indications are that the film is still going strong. In the second weekend the film's grosses dropped by a mere three per cent in New York City's Quad Cinema. The gross revenue for the Lincoln Plaza Cinema's dropped by 18 per cent.
One sign of Earth's strength in the South Asian community living outside Manhattan is that at the Regal Cinema in North Bergen, NJ, the film's gross revenue in the second weekend actually picked up by 18 per cent.
Russo said the film's slow start at the Regal Cinema was due to "another big Indian movie that might have drawn the audiences away." She was referring to the Bollywood film, Hello Brother, directed by Sohail Khan and starring his brothers Salman and Arbaaz. Both Earth and Hello Brother opened on September 10 at Regal Cinemas.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Video Sound, the distributor of Hello Brother said the film had performed poorly at the box office.
In its first week (September 10 to 16) the film had grossed a mere $ 278,000. Speaking from the company's Bloomfield, NJ office, Kishor Dadlaney said market expectations from Hello Brother were high, especially since most of Salman Khan's recent films had been box office hits.
Video Sound's next release is Hum Tum Pe Marte Hain, starring Govinda and Urmila Matondkar.
The film is set to open on September 24 on 15 screens. Later in October, Video Sound will distribute a Govind Nihalani film, Thakshak starring Ajay Devgan and Tabu, with music composed by A R Rahman.
Eros Entertainment's other recent Bollywood release, Baadshah, starring Shah Rukh Khan performed modestly in North America. As of September 19, the film had grossed $ 642,000. Baadshah is still showing on 17 screens in North America, and could end up with $ 750,000.
Eros's next project is Mast directed by Ram Gopal Verma whose previous works include the box office hit Rangeela and the critically appreciated Satya. Like these two films, Mast, which is scheduled to be released on October 15, also stars Urmila Matondkar.
However, Video Sound's Dadlaney said the Bollywood film industry is waiting for the next potential blockbuster, Rajshri Productions's Hum Saath Saath Hain. The film directed by Sooraj Barjatya is to be released on November 5, in time for the Diwali holiday season in India.
Besides the Barjatya magic, Hum Saath Saath Hain boasts of a major star cast, including Salman Khan, Karisma Kapoor, Saif Ali Khan, Sonali Bendre, Neelam and Tabu.
Dadlaney said so far Rajshri had not picked a company to distribute the film in North America.
"In the good old days, all the producers wanted was money," Dadlaney said. "It is not the same now. Rajshri will make the decision soon based on how the film will be marketed and distributed. They are more interested in how professional a company is and what its infrastructure is like."
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