The highly anticipated and Covid-delayed release of Indian action film RRR opened with a bang as distributor Sarigami Cinemas said it has grossed $4.5 million including late-night and early-morning shows and anticipated a $12 million-$15 million weekend.
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That would be the biggest Thursday ever for an Indian film Stateside, with 947 locations reporting so far. The Telugu-Hindi production from helmer S.S. Ramajouli opened at 1,040 locations and more than 5,000 screens in five languages.
This is director-screenwriter Ramajouli beating his own record, namely the 2017 epic action adventure Baahubali 2: The Conclusion. That film, a sibling rivalry set in medieval India and made in Telegu and Tamil, was a follow-up to Baahubali: The Beginning. Ramajouli’s large fan base is turning out for RRR.
According to Comscore data available for Baahubali 2, it grossed $4.6 million on its opening Friday (Thursday previews likely were folded into opening day) with a $10.4 million opening weekend.
The three-hour RRR, including intermission, is being specialty-priced.
The film was supposed to come out in early January and $2 million in presale tickets had to be returned to customers when released was delayed due to Omicron, said Sarigami. It had originally been set to premiere in 2020, then in 2021.
The story is set in 1920s New Delhi amid the Indian freedom movement. It revolves around two revolutionaries — an angry young police officer Raju (Ram Charam), who is both revered and feared by the British, and Bheem (N.T. Rama Rao Jr.), a simple tribal youth who has come to the city to rescue his abducted niece. It’s said to be one of the biggest-budget Indian films ever.
As Deadline reported last month, the genre has helped fill a void at the box office this winter and spring, stepping into multiplexes amid a dearth of new releases and playing on a handful of screens at a time in at least three languages including Hindi, Telegu and Tamil. (They’re the only foreign films that don’t play arthouses.) Telugu-Hindi period romantic drama Radhe Shyam had a strong opening on March 11 on 750 screens, already a much wider-than-average release for an Indian film (though below RRR‘s) and in fact the widest of that weekend.
As many as two or three India films can arrive day-and-date with India each weekend now that Covid has waned.
Indian audiences typically don’t lean on traditional film marketing, but word of mouth from family overseas coupled with community grassroots marketing often driven by favorite stars and directors. They tend to be front-loaded and are booked for one week at a time.
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