The first day for Bell Bottom, which released yesterday (Thursday, August 19), was far from good. Notwithstanding the fact that cinemas in Maharashtra are still shut, that most states have granted cinemas permission to operate at only 50% capacity, that there is a restriction on the timings of the last shows which cinemas can hold, that people are still scared to visit cinemas because of the fear of getting infected by the Coronavirus, the first-day total of Rs. 2.75 crore (nett) is still not impressive. Although some states postponed the Muharram holiday to today (Friday, August 20), there were other states where the holiday for Muharram was observed yesterday as scheduled. Hence if collections in some states got a fillip due to the holiday, those in other states got no benefit of the odd-day release. But even in those states, where the Muharram holiday is being observed today, collections have not taken a huge jump.

What has led to this lacklustre reception to the film, considering that it is the biggest and the most star-studded release in the theatres in the 17 months since the pandemic lockdown started in March last? Frankly, a lot of people did not even know that Bell Bottom was releasing in the cinemas. The public has now gotten so used to films releasing on OTT platforms that people thought, even Bell Bottom was streaming on an OTT platform. The producers erred in simply promoting the film’s release date; they ought to have highlighted the fact that it was releasing on 19th August in cinemas. Said an exhibitor of C.I., “PEN-Marudhar (the all-India distributors of the film) should have put full-page ads in newspapers in major cities on 19th, announcing that the film was opening in cinemas. The cost of the ads would’ve been more than recovered due to improved box-office collections.”

Interestingly, Punjabi film Puaada, which opened in cinemas in North India exactly a week earlier (on Thursday, August 12), recorded bumper collections of Rs. 54 lakh on the opening day (and it continues to score at the turnstiles even now). This proves that people are willing to go to the theatres. Actually, the crowds of people seen in restaurants after the lockdown was lifted are ample proof of people’s willingness to venture out. The outstanding first-day collections of Puaada on the one hand and the slow start of Bell Bottom on the other also prove the theory that the audience was, perhaps, not aware that Bell Bottom was releasing in the theatres. As for Puaada, the Punjabi film audience knew about its release in the cinemas because new Punjabi films were not premiered on OTT during the pandemic lockdown.

The public reports of Puaada are so wonderful that the 8th day’s collections of the Ammy Virk and Sonam Bajwa starrer in cinemas of East Punjab are better than the first day’s collections of Bell Bottom. At Phul cinema in Patiala, Puaada collected Rs. 66,004 in 2 shows on the 8th day whereas BB netted Rs. 68,000 in 4 shows on day 1. Similarly, Puaada collected Rs. 57,484 on the 8th day in 8 shows at Silverbird cinema, Ferozpur. As against this, BB collected Rs. 22,733 on the first day in 9 shows at the same cinema. If one were to count the number of patrons in Ferozpur, Puaada was seen by 313 people on the 8th day (in 8 shows) while BB was seen by 128 persons on the 1st day (in 9 shows). In Ludhiana, Puaada was seen by 2,669 persons in 48 shows on 8th day and it collected Rs. 3.98 lakh. As against this, BB was seen by 2,259 people in 73 shows on 1st day and it collected Rs. 4.2 lakh. While the audience count in Puaada was more, the nett collections of BB were slightly higher because of the higher ticket pricing for the 3D version.

But to say that the trade has given up hopes on Bell Bottom merely because of a slow start would be a fallacy. The trade has now fixed its gaze at the weekend collections. Since the public reports of Bell Bottom are not bad, the industry is hopeful that collections will pick up today and on Saturday and Sunday. Another point that may go in favour of BB, just like Puaada, is that the run at the cinemas may be longer because there aren’t too many releases in the forthcoming weeks.