RRR, BTS And The Encouraging Trend Emerging At The Box Office

Much of March has been focused on "The Batman" as far as the box office has been concerned, and that's completely understandable. It was the first solo "Batman" movie to hit theaters in nearly ten years and virtually every other studio moved out of the way to give the superhero flick space, with "The Lost City" finally swooping in this week to take over the top spot. Yet, somewhat quietly, a few interesting films have quietly pointed to an emerging trend — and it's something the industry could really use right now.

What we have seen over the last three weeks are unique offerings of non-American films quietly making their way to theaters, meaning they are not being heavily advertised to the American moviegoing public (at least not at all on the level as something like "The Batman"), and managing to make a real impact at the box office. In particular, India's "RRR," the Japanese anime film "Jujutsu Kaisen 0," and "BTS Permission to Dance on Stage – Seoul: Live Viewing," have all snuck into theaters across the country and made an actual dent in ticket sales, serving as excellent bits of counter-programming for the big movies out on those weekends.

"RRR" managed to pull in just shy of $10 million this past weekend, good enough for the number three spot overall, with hardly any mainstream advertising, all while playing on just 1,200 screens (compared to the 4,200 occupied by "The Lost City" or the 3,900 that "The Batman" was playing on). Meanwhile, "Jujutsu Kaisen 0" downright shocked people the week prior, taking in $14.8 million and coming in just behind "The Batman." In some ways, the most impressive of the bunch was "BTS," with the one-night-only concert film taking in $6.8 million in North America alone. It's all very impressive and provides enough evidence to suggest that this is more than just a fluke. This is a trend that might be just what the doctor ordered for movie theaters right now.

More counter-programming is desperately needed

It was downright concerning that every studio in town got so scared of "The Batman" that they gave the movie almost an entire month mostly free and clear. Movie theaters simply cannot exist with superheroes and horror movies alone. Other movies must be released to help draw in different moviegoers on a weekly basis. Yes, Hollywood is far more concerned with bolstering streaming services right now but the box office is still a monumentally important pillar of the industry that cannot be abandoned. Counterprogramming is needed and needed badly.

Luckily, these non-American movies have shown up to save the day, taking in more than $44 million over the last few weeks — more than half of the total $82 million that was raked in overall at the box office this past weekend. That is a significant chunk of change that has helped drive traffic to theaters across the country. And the best part is, these movies are drawing huge crowds overseas and aren't necessarily depending on American audiences. This is the icing on the cake for these movies, so there is less pressure from a business standpoint for them to deliver massive numbers. Yet, the crowds they do bring help prop up the exhibition side of the industry while Hollywood studios play it perhaps a little too safe in the post-pandemic era. We're looking at you, 20th Century Studios.

The fact is, if anime and overseas blockbusters can continue to quietly make their way to theaters and draw crowds, it will be nothing but excellent news for theaters that are trying to stay afloat. And, optimistically, it will encourage studios to read the tea leaves and understand that audiences may be hungry enough for a wider variety of films and not the same studio superhero fare. More of this, please.