TradeWinds Cinema

Out with the old

more-in

…and in with the new. Advances in projection technology have ended the dominance of traditionally stronger regions

Up until 2008, the regions that ruled Kollywood were NSC (North Arcot, South Arcot, Chengalpet), Coimbatore, Madurai, Trichy-Thanjavur, Salem, Tirunelveli-Kanyakumari (TK) and Chennai City, in that order. Kerala, Karnataka and the overseas had just started emerging. But this is not so any more, as digital projection has ended the dominance of these areas. Chengalpet, which was earlier a part of NSC, has now become the highest-grossing area in Tamil Nadu, followed by Coimbatore, and Chennai City, which were earlier at the bottom. The 3Cs, as the three territories are known, contribute almost 65 to 75 per cent of the total box-office gross in the State, depending on the film.

Areas such as MR (Madurai-Ramanathapuram), TT (Trichy-Thanjavur), North & South Arcot, have become less important as collection centres in Tamil Nadu. In fact, Kerala and Karnataka are now more lucrative for star-driven films than TK and Salem. Also, Tamil cinema’s overseas theatrical collections are likely to generate more income than even the Chengalpet area by the end of this year.

This change has come due to wider releases, the multiplex boom in the 3 Cs, and most significantly, single screens in smaller towns getting converted into marriage halls.

The rise of real estate properties in semi-urban areas too have changed status quo. A veteran producer, who has made films with several stars, says, “Today, there is no A, B or C centre in Tamil Nadu. Every theatre is a releasing station. Only a handful of theatres that are in bad condition, are screening second-run films. Years ago, simply screening old hits of MGR, Sivaji, Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan was a lucrative business. Now, such screenings have stopped, as multiple satellite channels screen the same film. Moreover, these films are also available on YouTube.”

The sole reason for business booming in the 3Cs and outside Tamil Nadu is the advent of digital screening. Distributors were earlier dependent on prints to screen their films, with each print costing around Rs. 67,000 (in 2008). Due to the high cost of prints, distributors used to have a limited release.

Even until 10 years ago, Chennai City could only release films in five screen (Mount Road, Mint/North Madras, Purasawalkam, Vadapalani and KK Nagar), but today, films are released in 30-plus screens. While the multiplexes in the cities took to digital screening in a big way, the small towns and rural areas were reluctant initially, but by 2014, the influx was complete.

From 80 to 100 films every year, production too has doubled to over 200 films a year due to the digital revolution.

Senthil Kumar, co-founder of Real Image Media Technologies, says, “Digital screening has brought down not only the cost of screening and production, but also stopped piracy to a large extent. Today, a person sitting in Chennai can control the Tamil Nadu theatrical business, as 95 per centof the lifetime box-office collections come from release stations within a few weeks.”

In Tamil Nadu, the strong distribution network that used to be run by certain powerful people, no longer exists. Today, 90 per cent of the films are released on a commission basis without an outright sale of distribution rights.

Reminiscences a veteran distributor, “Earlier, there used to be a terrific opening only for MGR or Sivaji, Rajinikanth or Kamal Haasan, who were true stars. Every year, there were about 100 releases, with around 10 featuring big stars. Today there are at least a dozen stars who are able to command an opening, and so, theatres have a wider choice”

This has affected even the very kind of films being made, as more importance is given to multiplex audiences in the 3 Cs. How else can you explain films like Kaaka Muttai and Visaranai releasing in 150-plus screens in Tamil Nadu and succeeding at the box-office?

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Feb 19, 2018 3:39:03 PM | http://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/how-film-distribution-has-changed-with-times-in-kollywood/article8289535.ece