What Akshay's 'BellBottom' Kangana's 'Thalaivii' Box Office Means for Bollywood
What does the low box office collections for Thalaivii and BellBottom post-lockdown mean for Bollywood?
The recent re-opening of cinema halls, backed with a few big releases, had presented a sliver of hope for the film industry post multiple lockdowns. The box-office collections of these films, however, have posed questions concerning the future of theatres and community movie-watching experiences.
'Thalaivii' and 'BellBottom' Collections
August releases— Akshay Kumar's BellBottom and Amitabh Bachchan's Chehre, followed by the much talked about Kangana Ranaut-starrer, Thalaivii, in September had a massive potential to cut through the slumber. All three had big names from the industry associated with them, had enough buzz going around, and were released at a time when the COVID-19 situation was better than it has been in a long time.
Their box office collections, however, failed to reflect this positive turn.
Day 1 Figures
BellBottom - 2.75 cr
Chehre - 50 lakhs
Thalaivii - 1.46 cr
First Weekend Figures
BellBottom - 12.90 cr (4 day weekend)
Chehre - 2.05 cr
Thalaivii - 4.91 cr
Compare this with previous big releases of the very same actors.
Day 1 Figures of Akshay Kumar's
Good Newwz - 17.56 cr
Weekend Figures of Akshay Kumar's
Good Newwz - 64.99 cr
Day 1 Figures of Kangana Ranaut's
Manikarnika - 8.75 cr
Weekend Figures of Kangana Ranaut's
Manikarnika - 42.55 cr
The massive gap in the figures before and after the pandemic and resultant lockdown is telling.
Isn't the Audience Ready to Return to Cinema Halls?
However, there are a lot of variables also at play here. Maharashtra, which accounts for about 30% of the national business, still hasn't opened up its theatres. Also, theatres that are open currently in the rest of the country allow only 50% occupancy.
Speaking about the box office collections of the recent theatrical releases, leading film exhibitor Akshaye Rathi feels that these early releases have to do the heavy lifting in terms of reopening the cinemas to people rather than getting big numbers.
“When it comes to that, both these films (BellBottom, Thalaivii) have done phenomenally. Shang-Chi too has played a major role. They are doing a great job at reopening at re-galvanising the exhibition sector and must be given credit for that", he said.
It needs to be said here that Marvel Studios' Shang Chi had a bigger opening day than BellBottom and Thalaivii.
“It is good content that works and not necessarily the names attached to the film. The reason for the three films not working (BellBottom, Chehre, Thalaivii) is different for each.”Komal Nahta, Film Trade Analyst
There is a definite occupancy gap but it can be slowly overcome. What is required is rebuilding the habit of moviegoing. "In India, the avenues for outdoor recreation are so few. Movie theatres are the cheapest and the most actionable form of outdoor recreation for people with their friends and families", added Akshaye Rathi.
But this revival will need patience and more faith from people that they can now safely resume watching films in cinema halls.
"People are still sceptical. But in the case of Thalaivii, it was also a very uneven release. National multiplexes were not playing the film”, says Taran Adarsh, film critic and trade analyst.
Tamil and Telugu Cinema > Bollywood
It is interesting to note that the Tamil and Telugu film industries have been doing significantly well compared to Bollywood. Unprecedented numbers have come in that don’t seem to have the influence of the pandemic over them. In January, Tamil action film Master astounded the trade when the Vijay and Vijay Sethupathi-starrer grossed more than Rs 150 crore (net) domestically, even at 50% occupancy.
Pawan Kalyan’s Vakeel Saab opened with Day 1 collections of over Rs 30 cr, emerging as one of the biggest openers in Indian cinema since the pandemic. The film's gross all-India collection stood at about Rs 110 cr.
"The southern markets definitely have a clear advantage— they are intrinsically catering to the grassroots audience which is more loyal and hero-worshipping in nature. This has been a fundamental advantage to the south Indian industry. Their audience will come back way sooner than the Hindi audience would"Akshaye Rathi, Film Exhibitor
Speaking about the success of Master and Vakeel Saab, Komal Nahta says that the two industries operate on different scales. The regularity of Hindi film releases on OTT has made it easy for people to skim through the theatrical releases. He further stresses the importance of better marketing and promotion for the films. "Everybody is cutting down on promotional budgets. But the fact is that you have to promote the film more than normal. The more you spend on investments, the more people show up", he adds.
Keep the Faith (in Cinema)
Could one argue that the urban audience has now become complacent and have got used to watching films on OTT platforms in the comfort of their homes rather than venture out into cinemas?
“OTT is just TV made more convenient. At the end of the day, it is entertainment. But theatres are outdoor recreation places. Restaurant and amusement parks are more of a competition to theatres than streaming is”, believes Rathi.
While the industry has had to endure the ramifications of the pandemic, it is not untrue that the audience is not entirely ready to get back yet. People are still recovering from the second wave and the possibility of a third wave dictates most decisions of importance, let alone that of recreation.
"The economy has been so badly hit. For the common man, survival and safety come first. Entertainment is a far off dream. It’s going to take time.”Taran Adarsh, Film Trade Analyst, Critic
However, an optimistic and unanimous verdict has been that when times get better, a big-ticket tentpole film will certainly break through and lead to the much-awaited recovery. So, although the box office numbers might be shaky, the faith in cinema and its power of community building remains strong as ever. All eyes are now on Rohit Shetty's Sooryavanshi and Kabir Khan's 83 to bring the audience back.
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