Love Story, director Sekhar Kammula’s Telugu film starring Naga Chaitanya and Sai Pallavi, which hit the theatres on Friday, emerged as the clear winner at the box office post the second wave of Covid-19. Speaking to Silverscreen India, theatre owners said the film has pulled the crowds back to the big screens, particularly the family audience and women.
A source, on the condition of anonymity, told us that Love story has collected a gross of Rs 11 crore, which after tax deduction would come to around Rs 7 crore.
Anupam Reddy, owner of Hyderabad’s Sudha Theatres and executive committee member of the Telangana State Film Chamber of Commerce, said Love Story stood out among the other recent Telugu releases. “It is a grand success. Crowds kept increasing for each show, when it is usually the reverse. Theatres were about 90% full and even night shows were crowded. It is a definitely a hit film, despite the mixed response to the content.”
Ashok Yadav, owner of the single-screen Gokul Theatre in Hyderabad, echoed Reddy’s views and said that the film is doing very well. Yadav, who ran four shows on Friday, added that all of them were housefull, as was the morning show on Saturday.
Love Story, written and directed by Kammula, was initially slated for release in the summer of 2020, but was postponed twice. It was first planned to release on April 16, and later rescheduled to September 10.
Reddy noted that Love Story has had one of the biggest openings post the reopening of theatres following the second wave of Covid-19. Previously, the Gopichand and Tamannaah Bhatia-starrer Seetimarr collected around Rs 4 crore on its opening day (September 10), which was until then the highest any Indian film had earned on its first day post the second wave of the pandemic. However, Reddy said Love Story has easily surpassed that.
Reddy, who ran 15 shows in his 5-screen theatre, with 70% occupancy on Friday, said he would be running two additional shows on Saturday. Expressing his gratitude to the producers of Love Story, Narayan Das K Narang and Puskur Ram Mohan Rao of Sree Venkateswara Cinemas LLP, for releasing the film in theatres, he added, “This film will encourage other producers to choose theatrical releases.”
“It is a festival for us,” he further said. “After a long time, we are seeing the family crowd. Jathi Ratnalu, which was also a crowd-puller, brought in the mass audience, but Love Story has pulled in the family audience, and especially women, who showed up in large numbers.”
Meanwhile, Yadav said a lot of younger people showed up at his establishment, but he too noted that the audience for Love Story included “a good number” of women. “Love Story’s success will definitely help future releases. The film has easily broken all the previous records since the second wave,” Yadav added.
To the question of what made Love Story a success, Balgovind Raj Tadla, secretary of Greater Telangana Exhibitors Association, opined that “content is indeed the crowd puller.” He added, “I went to watch the film myself yesterday in a nearby theatre and saw the family crowds. Unlike other films that were released recently, Love Story has got mothers to come to theatres with their children. That is something we are especially happy about.”
Tadla, who credited the success to Kammula’s writing, said he expects senior citizens to also throng the theatres in the coming days.
Akshita Reddy, who runs Ranga 70mm single screen theatre in Hyderabad, felt that the familiarity the film evoked among the audience coupled with the social concepts it dealt with, made the film successful among the variety of audiences. “Sekhar Kammula’s films connect with the people, and the film just clicked with the audience,” she said.
Noting that she ran four shows on Friday and saw about 70% occupancy despite there being a multiplex nearby running the same film, she added, “Films like these will revive the theatre business which was on the brink before.”