The cinemas in India began to shut shop from mid-March 2020. Though the cinemas reopened in October and were functional till April 2021, not a single big Hindi film made it to the theatres. Now that some sort of normalcy is here, Bollywood has geared up once again to release its films on the big screen. Unlike the last time when only small and mid-sized films made it to the cinemas, this time the industry is taking a big risk.
One of the biggest films of the year, ‘Bell Bottom’, is all set to release on Thursday, August 19 and it has left the trade and fans excited. Besides Akshay Kumar, ‘Bell Bottom’ also stars Vaani Kapoor, Huma Qureshi, Lara Dutta and Adil Hussain and is based on a real-life hijack and covert operation episode of the ’80s. The trailer is entertaining and classy and it looks like a film made for the big screen. Moreover, it’s releasing in 3D as well and that will further push audiences to venture out to the nearest theatre to catch the film. Akshay looks in form but what has taken everyone by surprise is Lara Dutta. She plays former Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi. She looks unrecognizable. Those who saw the trailer couldn’t even guess that it was Lara Dutta as Indira Gandhi. And this has worked very well. Today, audiences are well aware of the film and its release and one of the reasons for that is Lara’s unrecognizable avatar. Sadly, ‘Bell Bottom’ has some challenges that can make or break its box office. If it was releasing pan India despite 50% occupancy, then it still would have had chances to become a huge hit. This is evident from the fact that so many Hollywood films and even South films in India worked big time in the theatres despite the restriction. But in the case of ‘Bell Bottom’, the business might be affected as the crucial state of Maharashtra is yet to open.
When the makers announced in July end that the film would release on August 19, Maharashtra was shut but it was expected to allow cinemas to reopen from 1rst August since other states had relaxed the curbs. But when that didn’t happen, everyone was hopeful that the theatres would be allowed to reopen by August 15. However, while the government gave a lot of relaxation in its latest orders, it maintained that cinemas won’t be allowed to restart. In the past, films like, ‘Fanaa’ (2006) didn’t release in Gujarat while ‘Padmaavat’ (2018) didn’t release in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Haryana. But these don’t contribute as much as Maharashtra does. The state consists of cities like Mumbai, Pune, Nashik, Nagpur etc where a lot of money is earned. As per trade, around 25-30% of business is gone for ‘Bell Bottom’ since it’s not releasing in Maharashtra. And not to forget, it’s already releasing at 50% occupancy and night curfew in several states. In Uttar Pradesh, it also has to face a Sunday curfew. So cinemas there will be shut on the most important day of the week.
As a result, ‘Bell Bottom’ won’t be able to collect to its real potential. It’s difficult to even predict first-day earnings as it’s releasing in an unprecedented scenario. Still, it’s possible that it’ll open at Rs. 5-6 crore on Thursday. A Rs. 25-30 crore weekend should be the target. If Maharashtra opens on September 1, then the collections will rise in the second week. A Rs. 60-65 crore lifetime would be ideal and if it does more, then nothing like it.