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OSO holds strong overseas

By Arthur J Pais in New York
November 16, 2007 16:07 IST

The first time 20-something Raj Sharma saw Om Shanti Om in a New York theatre was with his friends. He admits that he missed out a lot of references to the old Hindi films in the movie. But he enjoyed it enormously.

The second time he saw it, he brought his parents along. "They generally like to watch movies on television," he said. And they wanted to wait until the DVDs came out. But he had told them -- after hearing people discuss the in-jokes and references to old movies -- that they will enjoy the film more if they saw it on the big screen.

"The film has become a community event," says Ken Naz, the North American president for distributor Eros International. "I have been in business for a long, long time and I have seen many Shah Rukh films do extraordinary business. But this film beats them all."

On Sunday evening, based on preliminary reports, Eros announced the film had grossed $1.5 million in North America, and had beaten the weekend gross of such mega hits as Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna by about 25 percent. But the next evening when the actual figures for Sunday came, the final gross was much more: $1.76 million.

"On Sunday we usually estimate a drop of about 30 percent but in the case of this amazing film there was hardly any drop at all," Naz said. "Even the late night shows went almost full. We expect a solid business in the second week too."

The film had also done excellent business in cities such as Indianapolis or Austin or Baltimore where Hindi films hardly get a houseful audience.

Besides, many multiplexes that were also showing American films started asking Eros for more prints of OSO. "They were knocking off couple of shows of other films and showing OSO in the other theatres," he added.

In America, OSO was 11th on the box office chart led by the Bee Movie, which in its second weekend has grossed $25 million.

But outside North America, OSO wrote movie history as it grossed over $18.5 million, most of it coming from India and the rest from the UK, Australia and UAE. And Saawariya, which some people thought would be dead on arrival, stunned many by its $14.5 million gross; once again, most of it from India. The Indian films led the box office outside America, easily triumphing over the Robert Redford, Meryl Streep and Tom Cruise staring political drama, Lions For Lambs, which took in $10.5 million.

Box office analysts believe there has never be a time when Indian films dominated the box office outside America over a weekend.  

In some theatres, ushers said they saw people heading for the box office soon after the OSO show to buy the tickets for the next show. Several young women at a New Jersey theatre could not get the tickets for the next show on Saturday. They waited to see the film again even it meant they would be seeing the midnight show.

The first week gross for OSO worldwide could exceed $25 million. In the final reckoning, the film which reportedly cost about $8 million could have a jaw-dropping $50 million gross.

It would be a very tough act for anyone to follow. Whether they expect to come anywhere near the global success of their second film together, following the smash Main Hoon Na, there are expectations that the writer and director Farah Khan and producer and actor Shah Rukh Khan would be working together in 2008.

While the OSO weekend gross grew when the collections were tabulated Monday morning, Saawariya, which had a decent run, saw its actual figures come down from the estimated $600,000 to $540,000.

Arthur J Pais in New York