It damages Indian cinema’s international standing that its box-office statistics only become public record as promptly as Hollywood’s when Hollywood studios are involved. So this week we see a rare appearance on the global charts, at No 10, for an Indian film, part-produced by Fox: Brothers, the Akshay Kumar-led remake of 2011’s MMA drama (and unexpected Oscar nominee) Warrior. Local estimates have the film – also developed by Lionsgate, Dharma and Endemol India – as opening at around 52 crore ($8m); Rentrak reckoned $11.2m domestically, plus spare change abroad. That’s a big disparity, which would mean a 72.9 crore debut. Either way, it is 2015’s third highest opening after Telugu epic Baahubali and Salman Khan tear-jerker Bajrangi Bhaijaan. Bollywood has long borrowed from its American counterpart, but the remake industry seems to be becoming more formalised with the growing involvement of Hollywood studios in the sub-continent. It’s not clear if this kind of cross-branding is what is pulling in audiences, but the Hollywood association is arguably adding to the marketing impact of these films: Bang Bang!, Fox Star’s 2012 remake of Tom Cruise’s Knight and Day, also opened confidently (62.3 crore).
Brothers review – Akshay Kumar is lead Weeble in feeble Warrior remakeRead more
Brothers is also ahead of Kumar’s offerings from earlier this year, Baby (36 crore) and Gabbar Is Back (39 crore). Like those other two, the new film – which also features Sidharth Malhotra (Student of the Year) as Kumar’s hated sibling rival/punchbag – has received a bit of a critical smackdown: our review calls it “prone to distraction”, while the Indian Express thought it “dragged down by its overwrought mawkishness”. But it’s a significant uptick in terms of Kumar’s career, comfortably topping his previous best opening weekend: 47.5 crore for his dual roles in 2012 thriller Rowdy Rathore, which went on to an impressive $38m worldwide and a place in the Bollywood all-time top 20. His unstinting workrate makes him the world’s ninth highest paid actor, according to Forbes’ recent survey.
Speaking of record-breakers, Bajrangi Bhaijaan’s blistering overseas pace – recently hurdling the 600 crore ($92m) mark worldwide – and the bias of Indian box-office reporting in favour of Hindiphone output has let one big achievement slip under the radar. Not only is Baahubali the most costly Indian production, not only did it muster the country’s biggest opening weekend, it’s now also the top-grossing domestic film ever: 500 crore against religious satire PK’s 440 and Bajrangi’s 420. Roll on 2016, when part two will hopefully deliver another dose of rampantly unironic heroics.
One deadly stat from The Man from UNCLE’s sorry $13.5m US opening: 86% of punters going to see director Guy Ritchie’s cocky spin on the 60s spy show were aged over 25. That means it couldn’t connect with the youth market it desperately needed to attract to revitalise the property. And, with George Clooney pulling out of a previous Steven Soderbergh incarnation of the project, it lacked the star power capable of giving big numbers of oldies a strong reason to care about a 50-year-old TV programme again: Henry Cavill has no leading-man track record outside of the Superman franchise, and Armie Hammer’s closest shot is riding side-saddle to Johnny Depp in the failed Lone Ranger remake. Not that that should necessarily scupper things, but Ritchie’s version – which, according to Peter Bradshaw, abandons “the forthright verities of action and tension … in favour of supposed stylishness” – cleaves too closely to retro complacency. It lacks the decisive modernising tendency of the Mission: Impossible series, or the anachronistically offensive edge and comic-book fanbase of 2015’s earlier throwback-espionage flick Kingsman: The Secret Service. Ritchie’s droll, blokey larking around the traditional blockbuster format has its charms. But UNCLE is too far off its game and stands little chance of breaking $500m, as his two Sherlock Holmes films did. It’s opened well under Rogue Nation and Kingsman in key spots among the 23 overseas markets so far; only the Russians, who gave it a No 1 $3.1m opening (against $3.5m for Kingsman and $3.7m for Rogue Nation), seemed in the mood for cold-war caperings.
It’s almost shocking that it hasn’t happened before: a film rooted in America’s long-established black box-office demographic that harnesses hip-hop culture to make it mass-market. That is indubitably where NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton finds itself after debuting on $56.1m: the 10th biggest opening weekend of 2015, the 10th biggest R-rated opening ever, the highest one for a musical biopic (beating Walk the Line’s $22.4m) and easily the highest for any rap-centric film. You could say the long wait for a mainstream hip-hop film, especially in this ten-a-penny biopic era, speaks volumes about US race relations, and their ghettoising impact on cinema; Straight Outta Compton’s nearest rival, 2002’s semi-biographical 8 Mile (which opened to $51.2m), of course centred on Eminem, a white rapper. Now this glass ceiling has been broken – in yet another coup for 2015’s hottest studio Universal – expect a flood of breakbeat-pounded material to follow.
Where Straight Outta Compton perhaps differs from previous hip-hop biopics, such as 2009’s Notorious, is in possessing a deeper stamp of authenticity. NWA member Ice Cube’s son O’Shea Jackson Jr plays his own father, director F Gary Gray was a 90s music-video director for the likes of Ice Cube, Dr Dre and many others, and brings a filmography that links black-centric projects (Friday; Set It Off) to more mainstream film-making (The Italian Job; Be Cool) and Dre’s first album in 16 years, Compton, arrives in parallel with the film to stoke generational nostalgia. At the same time, hip-hop is now sufficiently divorced from its roots in inflammatory urban poverty for the likes of NWA to be safely repackaged as respectable cultural heritage. Straight Outta Compton’s success (which broke down as 46% African American, 23% Caucasian, 21% Hispanic and 4% Asian) comes as confirmation of what everyone apart from Hollywood knew already – that hip-hop is common property now, and able to provide much more than gritty soundtrack options for Fast & Furious films. With that in mind, the film shouldn’t be just a localised US hit. Major markets to follow include the UK (28 Aug), France (7 Oct) and Spain (13 Nov), but Latin America and Asia (no dates available) have plenty of potential, too. 8 Mile’s $242.9m worldwide ($322.2m inflation-adjusted) is the target to beat.
Two huge local hits were hanging in on the global charts: at No 11, China’s Monster Hunt, the top-grossing domestic film ever, but now struggling at $349.5m to overhaul Furious 7 ($390.1m) as the overall Chinese box-office king; and at No 15, South Korea’s The Assassination, which has taken $71.2m to close the gap on director Choi Dong-hoon’s $86.6m for 2012’s Ocean’s Eleven imitation The Thieves (the country’s No 2 local film of all time). Chaebol thriller Veteran, in seventh place globally, has now swept up $44m there; along with The Assassination, it is helping to shore up domestic-film market share against uncommon Hollywood dominance this year (Age of Ultron and Kingsman being the main interlopers) in what is usually a bastion for local cinema.
On the new-entries front, making a strong bid for best film title of 2015 was Chinese romantic drama Go Away Mr Tumor, in at No 5 with a weekend gross of $21.5m. Based on the online comic strip detailing the struggle with cancer that eventually killed 30-year-old author Xiong Dun, it benefitted from having Monster Hunt star Bai Baihe in the lead role. Twenty-third and last place on Rentrak’s chart was reserved for El Clan, which bagged the highest-ever debut for an Argentinian film with $2.9m. From prolific genre/arthouse crossover director Pablo Trapero (Carancho; White Elephant) and, like Brothers, another product of Fox’s far-reaching international-production tentacles, it’s the story of the Puccio crime family, notorious for high-profile kidnappings in the 1980s. A long way ahead of other Central and South American countries in terms of local film production (despite being a much smaller market), the country still usually only manages to seat a couple of homegrowners in the annual top 10. Trapero’s sure to be up there.
With no new Hollywood tentpoles, everything’s in flux next weekend: summer flops Fantastic Four and The Man From UNCLE expand and try and make amends elsewhere. Rupert Friend replaces Timothy Olyphant in a sequel to 2007’s videogame-derived, slaphead-assassin flick Hitman, which heads out in 20 markets. Low-budget horror mavens Blumhouse follow up Unfriended and a third Insidious earlier this year with a sequel to 2012’s Sinister, also hitting around 20 territories. And Project X director Nima Nourizadeh gives irresponsibly heavy blowback to geek fantasies with stoner comedy American Ultra, starring Jesse Eisenberg as a pothead-cum-invincible government agent; as well as North America, it also shambles out in France and India. Finally, blackout period is over in China, and Hollywood is back in play. First up is the much-derided Terminator: Genisys, looking for a $50m topup to take it close to $400m and sixquel time. But it has local starlet Angelababy, and her romcom Bride Wars – a remake of the 2009 Kate Hudson/Anne Hathaway gig – to contend with. Arnie could be looking more haggard than ever once she’s finished with him.
Top 10 global box office, 14-16 August
1. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, $63.1m from 63 territories. $373.4m cum – 63% international; 37% US
2. (New) Straight Outta Compton, $56.1m from 1 territory – 100% US
3. (New) The Man From UNCLE, $25.5m from 24 territories – 47.1% int; 52.9% US
4. Fantastic Four, $24.2m from 55 territories. $102.1m cum – 58.9% int; 41.1% US
5. (New) Go Away Mr Tumor, $21.5m from 2 territories. $29.3m cum – 100% int
6. Minions, $20.2m from 63 territories. $957.4m cum – 67.3% int; 32.7% US
7. Veteran, $18.3m from 1 territory. $44m cum – 100% int
8. Pixels, $15.4m from 81 territories. $155.6m cum – 58.5% int; 41.5% US
9. Inside Out, $13.4m from 56 territories. $667m cum – 49.1% int; 50.9% US
10. (New) Brothers, $13m from 9 territories – 97.4% int; 2.6% US
• Thanks to Rentrak. This week’s figures are based on estimates; all historical figures unadjusted, unless otherwise stated.