The Malayalam film industry, while struggling to weather a grave financial crisis, is thrown into yet another quandary with the new releases finding their way into the internet.
The loss from these films in the first quarter—17 were released during this period—has been pegged at Rs.40 crore and it is likely to go up further as those movies that have fared well at the box-office during the Vishu season have been posted on the internet too. Almost all films released during the festival season like Christian Brothers, Urumi, Traffic, Makeup Man, August 15 and Race can be accessed on the internet.
Most of the films have registered a reasonable profit during the season and the key players were hoping that the industry would emerge from the crisis in the second quarter. The latest threat is feared to add to the burgeoning loss as a sizeable section of potential audience would be weaned away from the theatres. The calculations to make up the loss in the next quarter are also feared to go awry.
According to Kerala Film Producers Association secretary G. Suresh Kumar, only two of the 17 films released till March 31 have yielded reasonable returns to the producers. The average production cost of a film featuring a single hero has been estimated at Rs.3 crore. In the case of films with one superstar in the lead role, the cost may range from Rs.5 crore to Rs.6 crore and for multi super-starrers it will touch Rs.8 crore. A lion's share of the production cost is being set apart for paying the salaries of the artistes and technicians. Protracted schedules also add to the cost.
In spite of the surging losses, the industry has not yet woken up to reality and continues to make films with unrealistic budgets. The curbs imposed by the producers' association on the spending limit are being violated.
The video piracy prevention cell of the association has already swung into action and has alerted law-enforcement agencies to crack down on those downloading new films from the internet.
“We have decided to step up the vigil to identify those who download films from the net. It has also been decided to hold a joint meeting of the association and the cyber cell officials in Kochi on April 28 to chart out an action plan to check the menace. All said and done, the industry should mend its ways to come out of the crisis,” Mr. Suresh Kumar added.