Explained | How did Tamil cinema fare at the box-office this year?

From ‘Ponniyin Selvan’ to ‘Vikram’, Tamil cinema went international in 2022. As big films get bigger and small ones get smarter, the arena is getting more competitive and interesting

December 26, 2022 06:05 pm | Updated December 28, 2022 05:01 pm IST

Stills from ‘Vikram,’ ‘Ponniyin Selvan,’ ‘Beast’ and ‘Valimai’

Stills from ‘Vikram,’ ‘Ponniyin Selvan,’ ‘Beast’ and ‘Valimai’ | Photo Credit: Graphic: Albert Francis

The year 2022 has been the best ever in the last two decades or so for Tamil cinema. Two Tamil films, Mani Ratnam’s Ponniyin Selvan:1 ( PS1) and Kamal Haasan’s Vikram find a place among the top five worldwide blockbusters from Indian cinema. PS:1 has grossed Rs 495 crore and Vikram Rs 440 crore worldwide from theatricals, which is phenomenal by any yardstick. And there have been at least 20 out of the 215 odd releases (slated till Dec 31) which have been profitable for its producers from theatrical, digital and satellite rights.

However, it is the big-star driven movies that have given Kollywood a global presence. The other top grossers of the year include KGF: Chapter 2, RRR (both dubbed in Tamil), Beast, Valimai, Thiruchitrambalam, Don, Sardar and Love Today (the only small film in the chart).

Kamal Haasan and Lokesh on the sets of ‘Vikram’

Kamal Haasan and Lokesh on the sets of ‘Vikram’

PS:1 is the second highest all-time Tamil theatrical gross worldwide, after Rajinikanth’s 2.O (2018); many state that it would have beaten the gross of the latter if it had not premiered on OTT five weeks after its theatrical release. In Tamil Nadu, however, it has created a new record, for being the first film to collect a theatrical share of Rs 105 crore. No other Tamil film has done it before, with Vikram its nearest competitor and also a film released this year, taking a theatrical share of Rs 80 crore from Tamil Nadu.

PS:1 and Vikram have created new benchmarks in Tamil cinema as critics and audiences lapped it up with a never-seen-before fervour. In fact, both these films brought back audiences back to theatres in the state.

It has been a dream year for Tamil cinema when big got bigger. Tiruppur Subramaniam, leading Kollywood distributor and exhibitor says, “It is perhaps the best year in the last two or three decades because the content worked with new-age theatrical audiences not only in Tamil Nadu, but also worldwide. This year also proves the saying that content is king; how else will you explain a small film like Love Today making nearly eight times its cost and becoming the most profitable film of the year based on return on investments?”

Subramaniam also says the old rule book of the Kollywood film trade is being re-written, with audiences being clear on their viewing preferences. He points out that while PS:1 ,a period historical on Chola empire, struck a chord with viewers, while a mass masala movie like Cobra was rejected by audiences after a few shows.

Trisha in ‘Ponniyin Selvan’

Trisha in ‘Ponniyin Selvan’

How did PS:1 become such a sensational hit? Siva Ananth of Madras Talkies and its executive producer says, “As it’s based on a popular Tamil novel, it had a lot of recall value. Viewers, including senior citizens, thronged cinema halls for this film directed by Mani Ratnam. Thanks to positive word-of-mouth feedback, there were repeat audiences as well, which resulted in this record collections.”

The other blockbuster Vikram, with Rs 80 crore distributor share from Tamil Nadu, became a cult classic because director Lokesh Kanagaraj created his own cinematic universe and was able to give Kamal Haasan a brand new image as an action hero. S Pictures’ Seenu, leading exhibitor and distributor, explains, “This year, Tamil cinema went international and also did exceedingly well on home ground (TN). Vikram is proof of that.”

Among the small films, only Pradeep Ranganathan’s Love Today became a sensation as the content could connect with today’s younger generation. 15 to 20 films, including Kaathuvakula Rendu Kaadhal and Gatta Kusthi, have become profitable from theatrical and sale of rights (digital, satellite, overseas and dubbing/remake). OTT platforms have now made it clear that they will only buy rights of films that have had a theatrical release.

A still from ‘Love Today’

A still from ‘Love Today’

Dhananjayan Govind, producer and Tamil film historian says, “Indian cinema crossed Rs. 12,000 crore at the domestic box office in 2022, thanks to the phenomenal contribution of south cinema led by films like KGF: Chapter 2, RRR, Vikram, Ponniyin Selvan :1 etc. Nearly 55 to 60% revenue came from non-Hindi films mainly south films. Tamil Cinema had a fantastic year as three other films achieved more than Rs. 100 crore gross at TN box office ( KGF: Chapter 2, Beast and Valimai), which helped the industry to clock over Rs. 2,000 crore compared to just Rs. 1200 crore in 2021. 2023 is expected to be even bigger with many big-budget films lined up”.

Concludes Ajay Bijli, chairman and managing director of PVR, which has 83 screens in Tamil Nadu, “It has been a great year for south Indian movies at the national box-office with the huge success of films like KGF: Chapter 2, Kantara and Tamil films PS:1, Vikram and few others. Overall, things are looking better, with business back to 95% of the pre-COVID levels of business. We are expanding in a big way in south India with more screens and Tamil big films like Varisu and Thunivu will further the box-office boom in early 2023.”

The Top 10 Grossing-Films at the Tamil Nadu Box-Office for 2022

(Based on approximate theatrical distributor share)

1 - Ponniyin Selvan: 1 (PS: 1) : Rs 105 cr

2 - Vikram : Rs 80 cr

3 - Beast : Rs 60 cr

4 - Valimai : Rs 52 cr

5 - KGF: Chapter 2 : Rs 42 cr

6 - Don : Rs 36 cr

7 - Thiruchitrambalam : Rs 35 cr

8 - RRR : Rs 34 cr

9 - Love Today : Rs 27 cr

10 - Sardar : Rs 26 cr

(Note: This list has been compiled from theatre and trade sources and includes dubbed films. These collections are based from distributor share of a film from TN theatres, which are approximate.

The Tamil Nadu theatre share is only one of the revenue streams for a producer. In most cases, revenue from digital and satellite television rights are much higher than theatrical share. Whether a film is a hit or a failure depends on sale of all rights being higher than production cost.)

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