By Peter Knegt | Indiewire February 17, 2010 at 3:3AM
As indieWIRE noted in this weekend's box office column, Fox Searchlight's debut of the Bollywood film "My Name Is Khan" was a huge success over President's Day. The Karan Johar directed-film - about a Muslim played by Shah Rukh Khan who suffers from Asperger’s syndrome and is detained at LAX after 9/11 when security mistakes his disability for suspicious behavior - opened on 120 screens across America last Friday. For the 3-day weekend, "Khan" took in $1,944,027 placing 13th overall and averaging $16,200 - topping "Valentine's Day" as the best average of any film. For the entire holiday weekend, it grossed $2,264,983 - averaging $18,875, which was again the top average of any film in release.
"'My Name Is Khan' had the biggest box office weekend ever on a Bolllywood film in North America," Sheila DeLoach, Executive Vice-President of Distribution at Fox Searchlight confirmed to indieWIRE. "It [also had] the highest per screen average of any film this weekend."
The film tops recent Bollywood success story "3 Idiots," directed by Rajkumar Hirani, which was released by Reliance Big Pictures in late December. That film debuted on a nearly identical 119 screens and grossed $1,645,502, averaging $13,828. That film's total gross (so far, though it shouldn't add too much more) is $6,473,831. "Khan" also beat the previous record holder, 2007's "Om Shanti Om," which grossed $1,764,131 on 114 theaters, averaging $15,474.
Outside North America, "Khan" found huge success across all the eight markets it was released in. In the UK, it also set a Bollywood box office record. The film grossed £936,000 over the weekend, entering the UK Box Office charts at number six. The UK's top film - like in North America - was "Valentine's Day," which grossed £3.7 million and, although it averaged £8,640 on 432 screens, "My Name is Khan" averaged £10,291 from 91 sites.
The previous record for a Bollywood film in its opening weekend in the UK was held by 2006's "Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna," which grossed nearly £750,000. That film managed $3,275,443 in North America.
Overall, "Khan" grossed $14.2 million from 1,692 screens across the world. It scored the biggest Bollywood debut ever for the United Arab Emirates with $1.1 million (on only 35 screens), Australia with $372,000, and New Zealand with $99,000.
"Khan" was actually released amidst some considerable controversy in India. Its star - Shah Rukh Khan - and Shiv Sena, a Hindu political party in India were at odds after Khan questioned a cricket league draft process in which no Pakistani players were selected, including those who had played in previous seasons of the Indian Premier League. As a result, Shiv Sena (which regards itself as a defender traditional Hindu moral values), protested the film's release and consequently it opened to very tight security in Mumbai. All 63 theaters it was screening in in Mumbai cancelled the first day show of opening day.
The controversy obviously didn't seem to cause much damage to film's success there, though. It topped the box-office chart in India with $9.2 million, making up two thirds of its worldwide gross.
Fox Star Studios India, the Indian distributors of the film, plans to take the film to 25 non-traditional markets starting in April.
"Box Office 2.0" is a weekly column by indieWIRE Associate Editor Peter Knegt. Check out the previous editions:
Box Office 2.0: 10 Potential Late Winter Indie Breakouts
Box Office 2.0: Oscar By The Numbers
Box Office 2.0: Recapping The Non-Competition Films of Sundance '09
Box Office 2.0: Recapping The Competition Films of Sundance '09
Box Office 2.0: Tracking The Awards Contenders
Box Office 2.0: The Biggest Stories of the 2009 Indie Box Office
Box Office 2.0: "Broken Embraces" and the Cannes '09 Crop
Box Office 2.0: What Happens To "Precious" Now?
Box Office 2.0: The Curious Case of "Orson Welles"
Box Office 2.0: Fall Winners and Losers
Box Office 2.0: Assessing 2009's Dox Office From "Capitalism" to "The Cove"
Box Office 2.0: Two Notable DIY Releases That Opened In "Precious"'s Shadow
Box Office 2.0: Snap Judgements & Great Expectations