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August 18, 1999
Taal Dances To Record Numbers
Aseem Chhabra in New York
If the movie shows strong legs, it could end with more than $ 800,000 in the first week and eventually gross $ 2 million.
According to the Hollywood trade publication Daily Variety, the movie was placed 20th among the weekend releases. This is the highest weekend position occupied by a Hindi film in the US, according to Behram Shahparast, a spokesperson for the film's distributors, Eros Entertainment, from the company offices in Fort Lee, NJ.
The list is led by Manoj Night Shyamalan's spooky psycho drama, The Sixth Sense, which earned $ 25.8 million over the weekend.
Taal opened in the US on Friday, August 13. The film stars some of the top Bollywood actors, Anil Kapoor, Aishwarya Rai, and Akshaye Khanna, and its music is composed by one of the most sought-after film musicians in India, A R Rahman.
Another sign of the film's massive strength in the south Asian community in the US -- on Saturday August 14, Regal Cinemas, a multiplex theater in North Bergen, NJ, showed the film simultaneously on all its 13 screens. In Indianapolis, Indiana, Taal was reportedly shown on a six-storey high IMAX theater.
"We are thrilled," says Shahparast. "This is going to be a huge hit."
Another recent mega hit, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, starring Aishwarya Rai and Salman Khan, has grossed about $ 1.2 million in North America.
But Mehul Kumar's Kohram, starring Amitabh Bachchan, Nana Patekar and Tabu collected a paltry $ 38,530 in its second weekend run. Though initially Kohram was to be released on August 13, its distributor pushed ahead its release to August 6, deciding to add more theaters in the second week.
Kohram's total box office receipts in the first nine days (the film was released on August 6) according to the Daily Variety have been $ 70,257. Kohram is distributed in the US by Video Sound. The film performed far worse than another recent patriotic Hindi movie starring Bachchan, Hindustan Ki Kasam, which could end its run with about $ 200,000.
In its first weekend, Taal grossed only $ 10,000 less than the controversial Eyes Wide Shut, the film starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, which, having opened with about $ 24 million, is sinking fast.
Some of the other Hollywood films, released earlier this summer -- including Notting Hill (starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant), The General's Daughter (starring John Travolta) and Arlington Road (starring Jeff Bridges and Tim Robbins) -- finished behind Taal.
Perhaps the most important sign of Taal's popularity is that its per screen average collection of $ 13,438 was among the highest this weekend.
Of the top 75 films running in the US this weekend, only one -- Mysteries of Egypt, a specialized film starring Omar Sharif and produced for the giant IMAX screen, had a higher per screen average collection -- $ 17,577.
In comparison, the number one movie this weekend, Disney's The Sixth Sense, starring Bruce Willis and directed by Manoj Night Shyamalan collected $ 10,758 per screen.
Eros's Shahparast said that normally the per screen average for Hindi films in the US is in the ballpark of $ 9,000.
At Regal Cinemas, Gautam Shah was gloating over the success of Taal. Shah leases theater space from the owner of the facility, the Regal Cinemas Corporation, to show Hindi movies.
Normally Regal Cinemas, with its comfortable stadium type seats show second run Hollywood films -- such as Entrapment and Matrix -- at a discounted price. The 13 theaters at Regal Cinemas range in capacity from 95 to 300 seats.
Due to prior publicity and the success of the film's soundtrack, Shah had expected that Taal would perform better than most recent Hindi films. So earlier last week he made the decision to rent four screens for Subhash Ghai's film.
"On Friday all the three shows of the film were sold out," Shah said. "We decided to expand the film to all the 13 screens on Saturday, showing it every hour, on the hour."
He added that Saturday evening after 6 pm all the shows were sold out. On Sunday, Taal, showed on six screens at the Regal Cinema. For rest of the week, Shah will continue to lease at least four theaters to show the movie.
Shah said that on Friday, Saturday and Sunday he sold approximately 6,600 tickets for Taal. "Through Thursday [August 19], we expect the total ticket sales to reach 8,000," he added. "This is the best that we have ever done. I hear the film is a hit everywhere."
Total first week ticket sales at Regal Cinemas for the last successful Hindi film -- Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, were 3,400, Shah said. In its opening weekend, the film, starring Salman Khan, Aishwarya Rai and Ajay Devgan, sold a mere 3,000 tickets, he added.
Taal's success (as well that of Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam) is a clear indication that the market is ripe for well-made romantic films. The audience is definitely there. Bollywood just needs to deliver the product.
Arthur J Pais contributed to this story
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