Audiences fall in love with ‘Akbar’

Indian romance earns $9.65 million overseas

HONG KONG — Big-budget Indian romancer “Jodhaa Akbar” earned an estimated 385 million rupees ($9.65 million) on its opening weekend, including paid previews from lastThursday.The epic, distributed by UTV Motion Pictures, played on 1,100 screens in 26 countries, for a per screen average of $8,400.

UTV reports that pic grossed $6.26 million in India on 900 screens (including 400 digital screens), $713,000 in the U.K., and $460,000 in the Gulf and $135,000 in Australia.

Biggest non-Indian perf was in North America, where UTV said it gave the pic the widest release ever for an Indian movie at 129 screens, including some in six Canadian provinces.

Rentrak data used by Daily Variety, logged only 100 sites but reported a three- day gross of $1.64 million, for a Stateside screen average of $16,400.

UTV claims the North American result is the second-highest figure for an Indian movie behind November’s “Om Shanti Om” and that the opening weekend B.O. is among Indian cinema’s five biggest ever.

The Aishwarya Rai Bachchan/Hrithik Roshan starrer has received largely positive reviews despite controversy over its historical accuracy — it tells the tale of an arranged marriage between a Hindu princess and a Muslim emperor that blossoms into a love affair.

Controversy meant pic was not released in Rajasthan, potentially one of the most lucrative states for the pic, and smaller parts of other states. UTV sources are confident that it will be released in Rajasthan “within a few days.”

In order to prevent piracy in North America, UTV and U.S.-based exhibitors sent legal warning letters to 500 retail stores known to stock pirate videos.

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