Some eight decades ago, films were billed as blockbusters only if they managed to run to full houses at least for a year. Epic films such as ‘Haridas' went a step beyond, getting screened continuously in most of the theatres for three whole years.
When the number of theatres began to swell, the size of audience shrunk noticeably. But movies of actors such as M.G.Ramachandran and Sivaji Ganesan had smash hits written all over them, keeping the cash boxes of theatre owners ringing for several months.
With burgeoning multiplexes and bootleg DVDs, success of a movie has now ceased to be determined by the number of days it runs. Even the much-hyped films fail to remain for a long time in the ‘now showing' list of movies in many multiplexes, as theatrical attendance has also thinned with multiple options available for audience.
‘Enthiran,' for instance, has been released in over 3,000 theatres worldwide, which does not account for the number of screens in each multiplex. All multiplexes in the city have slotted the film in as many screens as possible and for the maximum number of shows.
The manager of a multiplex in South Chennai says that the number of days a movie is screened is no more a deciding factor for success, as a grand opening has become the byword of the industry.
“Quick money and big business is the new trend in Kollywood and rightly so. If it is a win-win situation for producers, distributors and exhibitors, there is nothing to complain,” says Tamil Nadu Theatre-Owners' Association president Rm.Annamalai.
According to producer Manickam Narayanan, the trend of ‘repeat audience,' which was so popular two decades ago when people prided themselves on watching a film several times in theatres, is completely lost.
“Now, first three days matter the most for any film. After a week, occupancy rates in many multiplexes plummet and any profit earned later is considered as an unexpected fortune.” Reasoning out that grand opening can save a film, Mr. Narayanan says that theatres in suburban and rural areas, however, might not earn as much as multiplexes do.
Mr. Annamalai reminisces the time when his theatre ran three movies for two years. Not long ago, big-budget films are not something that Tamil cinema was used to. Both the profit and loss margin was well within the affordable limits of producers and exhibitors. “But now if a lavish film fails at the box-office, then both producers and theatre owners cannot come out of the financial strain. It is better to release it in as many theatres as possible and earn profits quickly. This also checks on film piracy,” he adds.
If bootleg DVDs remains a potential threat, many filmmakers see official DVD release as a viable option to earn money. But Kollywood, however, has a long way to go in exploring the DVD market, says G. Dhananjayan, Chief Operating Officer, Moser Baer Entertainment.
Unlike Hollywood and the Malayalam film industry where the DVD rights are sold after 100 days of the release of a movie, Tamil cinema is ruled by the satellite telecast rights. “The global trend is to sell off the video rental rights first, then DVD rights and lastly, the satellite telecast rights. It doesn't work that way in Tamil cinema. TV channels purchase the rights first, which makes it impossible to officially release any films on DVD,” says Mr. Dhananjayan.
Keywords: Tamil film industry