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Sunday, September 26, 2021

Explained: Why, despite its limited box office success, BellBottom’s theatrical is an important signal for film industry

BellBottom's box office performance in the last seven days shows the gamble has paid off but not necessarily in monetary terms.

Written by Arushi Jain , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: September 5, 2021 9:20:05 pm
bellbottom box office collectionBellBottom was the first Hindi movie to hit theaters after the re-opening of cinema halls. (Photo: Pooja Entertainment)

The pandemic brought the Hindi film industry to its knees, with theatres shut for months on end and films waiting for a proper release. In this grim scenario, the release of Akshay Kumar-starrer BellBottom has come like a ray of hope. The Ranjit M Tewari directorial was the first Hindi film to release in theatres after the second lockdown ended, giving the green light to many others waiting in the wings. The release was a tricky one as theatres in Maharashtra, the biggest territory when it comes to films, still remain closed and most other states operate at 50 per cent seating capacity.

If we look at BellBottom’s box office performance in the last seven days, it is clear that the gamble has paid off — maybe not in monetary terms, but definitely in instilling a sense of confidence in the filmmakers and audience. Cinemas are open for business again, thanks to the all-star thriller.

How much did BellBottom earn?

Directed by Ranjit M Tewari, BellBottom opened with a box office collection of Rs 2.75 crore on Day 1, a Thursday. The film made Rs 2.60 crore and Rs 3 crore on Friday and Saturday respectively. But it saw a significant jump on Raksha Bandhan as it clocked in a collection of Rs 4.40 crore on Sunday, bringing the first-weekend collection of the film to Rs 12.75 crore. Currently, after seven days of its release, the total collection of the spy-thriller stands at Rs 17.40 crore in India. The worldwide gross of the film is Rs 26.66 crore.

bellbottom BellBottom has been directed by Ranjit M Tewari. (Photo: Pooja Entertainment)

What were the expectations from Akshay Kumar film?

In a normal scenario, BellBottom would have ‘easily’ got a first-day opening of Rs 20 crore at the ticket counters, as per producer and film business expert Girish Johar. In the current scenario, trade expert Komal Nahta predicted that the thriller will earn Rs 7 crore on opening day despite being a non-holiday release. The lower-than-expected collection notwithstanding, Johar believes BellBottom had a “decent collection”. He said, “The audience may be viewing from the box office perspective, so to them, it may appear to be a low figure, which it is. But as an industry insider, I look at it as a film that moved a jammed wheel. It started a lot of activities like the unlocking of the cinema halls, marketing a film, releasing the film overseas. So, it was definitely a thumbs up since a film like this can move a lot of machinery.”

Ahead of the film’s release, film trade analyst Taran Adarsh also suggested it’s a step in the right direction because “people will return to the theatres only when big films with big stars will hit the screens.” According to him, “We cannot expect huge numbers as was the case in the pre-Covid times, but I guess people will soon get used to the habit of watching films in the theatres once again.”

How did closed Maharashtra theatres affect numbers?

Maharashtra, which accounts for almost 30 per cent of a Hindi film’s business in India, hasn’t opened cinema hall doors yet. So, the film lost a major portion of its business. Johar said producers have realised ‘Maharashtra has to be on board’ since it is one of the key stakeholders in the Indian box office. “It has to be on-board on this. That is why you don’t see any big films being announced as of now, we hopefully will have Maharashtra giving green signal to cinema halls soon and then all the big films which have been pending will start releasing,” he added.

Why is the pandemic release still good news?

The film industry sees BellBottom’s release as a good sign despite the numbers. They think the film business has been badly hit by the pandemic in all respects — from conceiving a film to its shooting, release and consumption as a group activity. The Akshay Kumar release signals that the wheels have again been lubricated, with films lined up for release in the coming weeks. Amitabh Bachchan-starrer Chehre releases this Friday, with Marvel tent-pole Shang-Chi and the Legend of Ten Rings releasing on September 3.

“But, the moment a big film like this releases, it helps the industry to revive every department. The industry is also feeling that it is ignored by the government the most. We have been asking for some relaxation, but only some states have opened up theaters, and some are still contemplating. In such a scenario, it was very critical for the makers of BellBottom to release the film. So, kudos to Vashu Bhagnani and team for making this decision and starting the wheel of the industry,” Johar said.

What does it bode for films releasing in the next month?

After Akshay Kumar’s BellBottom set the ball rolling, other filmmakers have also given a sense of confidence to other filmmakers who have planned theatrical releases of their movies in the coming months. After Chehre, Kangana Ranaut’s Thalaivi is scheduled to hit the screens in September. The makers of Suniel Shetty’s son Ahan Shetty’s debut film Tadap have also zeroed in on a release date. It will hit the theaters on December 3.

As fear of the virus persists, people will need good reasons to return to a dark enclosed space where they will be seated with strangers. With multiple streaming alternatives in places, films have no choice but to go big to lure audiences back to theatres.

Compelling stories that generate positive word of mouth, promotions that give viewers a reason to leave the comfort of their couch and head back to theatres are the need of the hour to revive the cinema experience.

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