Pooja Entertainment’s ‘Bellbottom’ has brought a surge of hope and happy tidings to theatres after an extended lockdown, say trade experts
Pooja Entertainment’s espionage biggie ‘Bellbottom’ was released on 19 August 2021, in regions where theatres have opened. Despite the absence of major revenue earners in Maharashtra and theatres opening only at 50 percent capacity, the film is packing in eager audiences. Kamal Gianchandani, CEO and Chief Business Planning & Strategy PVR Ltd, articulated the industry sentiment when he tweeted, “#Bellbottom gave @_PVRCinemas (& cinemas across the country) reasons to cheer as it continued to hold strong in its second week. Demand at cinemas exceeded supply, we have recorded a massive number of Housefull shows over the weekend @akshaykumar @jackkybhagnani @honeybhagnani.”
Akshaye Rathi, director, Saroj Screens Pvt Limited, endorsed the view thus, “The second-weekend numbers of ‘Bellbottom’ indicate that people’s appetite to head back to theatres has been revived! The Hindi film fraternity ought to be grateful to Akshay Kumar, Vashu Bhagnani, and distributors Jayantilal Gada and Sanjay Chatar for showing courage and releasing a film that has set the wheels of hope in motion. While some people may point fingers at the relatively slow start of the film at the box office, most have the pragmatism to realise that ‘Bellbottom’ has scored a much greater achievement by reopening hundreds of cinema halls all over the country! If that is not a giant victory, I don’t know what is!”
He added that currently, it is wrong to measure success and failure with pre-pandemic yardsticks as many states including Maharashtra have not yet unlocked theatres, night shows are not happening everywhere and theatres are opening at half capacity. Said Akshaye, “What is remarkable is that even after an extended lockdown period, massive losses and prolonged gloom, ‘Bellbottom’ has brought back audiences to theatres. This makes a world of difference to the morale of the exhibitors.”
Producer Jackky Bhagnani said in a statement, “For Pooja Entertainment, it was essential to show solidarity with exhibitors. Releasing ‘Bellbottom’ in theatres was not just a business decision but an emotional one because we wanted to unlock theatres, revive this sector of the fraternity and uplift the spirit of the industry.”
Trade analyst Komal Nahta said in his tweet, “Vashu Bhagnani’s ‘Bellbottom’ has marked the unlocking of cinemas even in the remote climes of Ladakh! It is the first film ever to have been screened at a mobile digital movie theatre at an altitude of 11,562 feet! How can we measure this landmark moment? What is so incredible is that to bring the cinema-watching experience to this region, a mobile cinema was introduced in the Paldan area in Ladakh by Picture Time Digiplex and ‘Bellbottom’ was screened here recently not just for the audience but also for the Army.”
He added, “On August 29, collections for the film were almost as much as the collections recorded on Sunday last week. In other words, the film’s collections on the first Sunday and the second week’s Sunday have been nearly the same. In some cinemas, the second Sunday was even better. For instance, the collections at Cinepolis WTP, Jaipur were around Rs. 62,898 on the first Sunday and the film netted Rs. 83,872 on the second Sunday. Similarly, the second weekend’s collections at Raj Mandir Cinema, Jaipur (Rs. 3,74,719) were better than the first weekend (Friday-Sunday; Rs. 3,43,490).”
Kunal Sawhney, COO at Carnival Cinemas, has also noted how the film has succeeded in getting people, including senior citizens and kids back to the cinemas. He tweeted, “#BellBottom has succeeded to get #people back to #cinemas good to see #SeniorCitizens #kids enjoying #BellBottom at @CarnivalCin #housefull on 2nd week @akshaykumar #Bollywood.”
Girish Johar, producer and film business analyst, added, ” The arrival of a big film like ‘Bellbottom’ helps the industry to revive itself at every level. Right now, the industry is still coping with locked theatres in Maharashtra and some other states and it is not easy to go back to the old normal for the exhibitors and producers. In such a scenario, it was very risky for the makers of ‘Bellbottom’ to release the film but they did so against all odds. So, kudos to Vashu Bhagnani and his team for making this decision and starting the engine of the industry.”
‘BellBottom’ was the first major Hindi film to hit the big screen in India post the pandemic-induced shutdown of movie halls. Despite the chatter that the film is performing “below expectations”, trade experts say the best people to ask how the film is doing would-be producers and exhibitors who have all expressed happiness over its performance. The purpose of the release was to unlock cinemas and it has done exactly that, they reiterate.
The industry hopes things will get better around November with the festive season kicking in.
Producer Deepshikha Deshmukh added , “We shot and completed ‘Bellbottom’ during the pandemic against all odds and a lot of films followed and now we released it at a time when many people thought it was unwise to do so. To receive calls from all our exhibitors telling us about so many shows being housefull across the country in the 2nd Weekend was the best news for us. What ‘Bellbottom’ has achieved cannot be quantified in terms of numbers. That means a lot to us as a production house.”