Read this review of Deepa Mehta’s Water (2006) by Tribune critic Michael Wilmington, and go see the film. I have nothing to add to the review, and recommend it with all my heart.
Recently, the film based on Dan Brown’s acclaimed novel Da Vinci Code was released amidst great fanfare and well-deserved bad reviews on May 19th. As of today, the movie has grossed $148 Million in the US and $465 Million worldwide. Needless to say, it benefited enormously from the immense popularity of the book, and people were simply curious. The production budget was $125 Million. Only in its second week, this film will, likely, reap much higher returns in its lifetime.
In contrast, this truly beautiful and moving independent film by Deepa Mehta called Water was released on April 28, and so far has done a paltry $1.5 Million. I don’t know the production budget for this project. I am sure it is quite small. Will this film ramp up as the word of mouth develops? Unclear, since the theme is sad and heavy. It might, if an Oscar Nomination kicks in, but that won’t be for a while, still.
Here are some comparables:
In 1992, an independent Chinese film called Raise the Red Lantern did $2.6 Million.
In 2002, Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding did a total US gross of ~$14 Million, with a production budget of $160 K, returning a whopping 86x.
Note, that these numbers were from the pre-social-media generation on the Internet.
Today, the potential for marketing niche films using the Internet, is enormous. To start with, putting a few video clips of the beautiful Lisa Ray on YouTube would be a good idea. Working the Blog circuits would also help. For DVD rentals, of course, Netflix has become a very viable way to do segmented marketing to a specific audience (people who have viewed one or both of the above films, for example, are likely candidates).
I am sad to see that the distributors of this film are not terribly savvy about Internet marketing. This is such a beautiful film, and it truly is reminiscinent of Satyajit Ray’s Apu Trilogy (Pather Panchali, Aparajito, Apur Sansar). I would love to see it reach a wider audience.