Director Mandla Dube's emotionally charged and highly anticipated film Kalushi: The Story of Solomon Mahlangu made its box office debut on March 10th and the numbers aren't as great as I had hoped.
While the team behind the film certainly do not have much to worry about at this stage, my job is to look at the numbers and trends. I also have to make comparisons and I am a tad concerned. With a lot of support and a social media movement to get people to see this historically significant film, which delivers on all fronts, I am surprised that audiences did not #FillUpTheCinema with big numbers.
With the star power of Pearl Thusi and the unanimously lauded performance of Thabo Rametsi and the positive reviews for the film from critics, I certainly did not expect that Kalushi will pull a lower number of ticket sales than our local rom-coms.
For its opening weekend, Kalushi pulled R521 977.57 at the box office — making it the 6th highest grossing film for the 10-12 weekend ticket sales. It is a decent number, however compared to other so called "black local films" it is the lowest of the bunch.
Happiness Is A Four Letter Word tops the big 4 with a staggering R2 034 930.13 opening weekend, followed by Mrs Right Guy with R865 594.62 and Tell Me Something Sweet with R794 871.67. As you can see, by comparison Kalushi did not do well.
It is still early days though. Kalushi still has a chance to catch up. With all the aforementioned films, their ticket sales improved within the next 10+ weeks they were on circuit. Kalushi has a real chance of picking up momentum. Last year Mrs Right Guy started with R800k but ended its run on the 15th weekend with R4.1million.
There is no debating the artistic merits of Kalushi. Its historical and cultural importance has been illuminated by more qualified and distinguished people than I. And judging by feedback from audiences who have seen it, it delivers. The issue now is to get fans of the movie to stop just tweeting about it and go out there to see it.
#GoSeeKalushi should not just be a social media trend but an actual act. Perhaps knowing that the movie is not doing as well as it would be perceived judging by social media posts, people will go out there and pay to see it.