Bollywood stars have been having a good run at the international box office over the past year, from Hrithik Roshan and Katrina Kaif‘s current release Bang Bang to Salman Khan in Kick this summer. Next up is arguably the best-known global Bollywood hitmaker, Shah Rukh Khan, in Happy New Year (see trailer below). Set for day-and-date release on Friday in India, North America, Australia, the UK, UAE and elsewhere, the heist pic reunites Khan with his Om Shanti Om and Chennai Express co-star Deepika Padukone, and Om Shanti Om helmer and Chennai Express choreographer Farah Khan. Add to those ingredients the strategic release falling during the Diwali holiday period and this confection could do mega-business at home and across the diaspora.
Local movies in India make up about 90% of the market share and Bollywood A-listers are so popular that each release is an event at home and abroad. Shah Rukh Khan, aka SRK, is considered by many to currently be the biggest Bollywood star in the world. He’s also been listed by Wealth-X as the 2nd richest actor on the planet with a net worth of $600M. In 2013, he was ranked by Forbes India as the No. 1 Bollywood earner and celebrity. But he hasn’t had a huge international release since Chennai in 2013. Normally, his big titles go out during the Eid al Fitr holiday in August as Chennai did, but he stepped off that date this year, leaving the path open for rival Salman Khan’s Kick which went on to great success.
SRK is now poised with Happy New Year to turn the tables. Records set last year by Chennai Express with Padukone and SRK were bested only by all-time record breaker Dhoom 3 with Kaif and Aamir Khan. Dhoom 3 opened to $3.3M in North America last December, eclipsing Chennai‘s previous record of $2.23M. Respectively, they went on to earn about $8M and $5.3M in the U.S. and Canada. But there are devout Bollywood followers all over the world which help to boost grosses. (Dhoom 3 ended up with about $89M worldwide and estimates put Chennai at about $68M.)
This weekend, Yash Raj Films is releasing SRK’s Happy New Year, about a group of six “losers” who fake participating in a dance competition in an attempt to pull off the greatest diamond heist ever. It will go out on about 260 screens in the U.S. and Canada with Thursday previews beginning at 8:30 PM at select theaters. Whether it will break into the Top 10 in a crowded North American field is a question mark, especially given its three-hour running time which means fewer plays than most Bollywood films. Still, I’m told it is expected to break records in India and to be among the biggest openings of 2014 both there and in the U.S. In India, distributors are predicting a record-setting opening day of 40+ crore ($6.5M). There’s also optimism it will be the fastest movie to cross not only 100 crore ($16.3M), but 200 crore ($32.6M) as well.
Whatever happens this week, Bollywood’s so-called rivalries still exist. Next year, Salman Khan and SRK are both eyeing the Eid al Fitr holiday: Salman with Bajrangi Bhaijaan and SRK with Raees; and Salman has already staked out Diwali 2015 with Prem Ratan Dhan Payo from Fox International Productions. SRK’s other recent credits include 2010’s My Name Is Khan and 2011’s Ra.One and Don 2, each of them big hits at home and abroad. Further proof of his star power: In December, he’s hosting Got Talent World Stage Live in Mumbai, an extension of Simon Cowell’s Got Talent franchise that will feature performances by local and international artists and be broadcast on Colors TV.
Here’s the Happy New Year trailer: