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June 11, 1999
Will Biwi No 1 Lift the Gloom?
Joseph Paul in New York
Theater-owners dying for a movie that has long legs are hoping that David Dhawan's Biwi No 1 will sustain its excellent opening. The film grossed an estimated $ 90,000 in more than 20 theaters across America last week. Considering the cricket fever, the take is considered impressive, said several exhibitors.
"But the big question is whether the film has strong legs, if it will draw repeat audiences," wonders distributor M Savani. "It has been a long time since a major hit has appeared on the scene."
Harbhir Singh of Rialto Theater Woodbridge, New Jersey believes that any film that has the potential of doing decent business could become a super hit in the next few days.
"Summer vacation has just started, and the kids are out of school and college," he says. "If a film catches their fancy now, it could become a super hit."
To the college and school crowd, a film starring Salman Khan or Shah Rukh Khan is a big draw. Another big draw is Kajol. Govinda has big appeal to the audiences from Trinidad and Guyana.
If Biwi No 1 fails to turn into a super hit, exhibitors would have to wait for another film like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, which went on to gross over $ 1.25 million, and Dil Se, which grossed about $ 700,000.
"It is not the box-office gross alone that matters," says Singh. "The concession stand sales are also important to us, and so are the sales of video and audio cassettes. And unless we have films with strong legs, we cannot make good money at the concession stands."
Sarfarosh, which is now playing in states such as Arizona and New Mexico that have clusters of immigrants from South Asia, performed beyond expectations, having grossed $ 480,000 in five weeks.
It is one of the few Hindi films that have found a place for more than two weeks in trade publication Variety's Top 100.
The recent disappointments include the heavily promoted, Silsila Hai Pyar Ka. It grossed just about $ 150,000. Amitabh's Lal Badshah was a major disappointment.
"It is not easy to hook the audiences unless the film has a strong story line and top rate performances and excellent music," says Savani.
"There was a time, not too long ago, when the moviegoers from Trinidad and Guyana flocked to any Hindi film with big stars," he continues. "But they are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their preferences."
And often they can embrace a film that has not done well in India. "Look at the success of Dil Se in England and America," he says. "It grossed about $ 2 million in England -- many British film makers would envy that record."
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