Trade Winds Movies

Tracing the average life of a Tamil film in digital era

Audiences watching a random movie

Audiences watching a random movie  

With changing times, the shelf life of a film is dependent on its box-office performance in the first week

It has been a great learning curve for Kollywood stakeholders — the producers, distributors and exhibitors. They have now realised that the life of an average Tamil film is one week, during which almost 90% of its lifetime collections are generated. With a wider release for a big hero film, it expands to two weeks.

Today, more than ever, it’s the opening week that matters for a film’s lifetime collection, as the cushion of a long run based on word-of-mouth (WOM) is disappearing. Even before the WOM, another window opens for the film on OTT platform or television première. The recent example is the classic case of 96, which became a rage upon its release, but didn’t enjoy a longer theatrical run as it was premièred in television. This is largely because of a glut of Tamil releases (200 plus films a year) and the craze for star-driven films. A few years back, there used to be 90 to 100 Tamil films a year. A hit or super-hit was gauged by the number of days a film ran in theatres, and these films took 12-18 months to be declared as superhits in Tamil Nadu.

Now, things have changed in Kollywood, with the advent of digital projection and rise in multiplexes. Veteran theatre owner Balasubramaniyam says, “More than a decade back, the number of Tamil films released a year was below 100, and other language films were not popular in rural areas. In those days, every film got four shows, as cost of prints was prohibitive and even if it was a flop, it had 28 shows a week. But things changed when Tamil Nadu went 100% digital, which led to the increase in number of films and shows.”

Today, the multiplex and single screens play numerous films every week. However, the ones that underperform are removed from the theatres. Every theatre adopts different programming to slot films during week days and weekends. Even the star’s films get their shows cut, if they do not bring in the audience. Earlier, the producer or distributor used to pay the Digital Service Provider (DSP) well in advance for shows per week. Now, they are doing it on a daily basis as some films do not even collect the DSP charges (₹350-450 per show).

Take for example Ajith’s Pongal superhit Viswasam, which is still running to packed houses in Tamil Nadu. The number of shows went on increasing, especially in semi-urban and rural areas. In fact, some theatres preferred screening Viswasam in its fourth week, despite new releases. Confessing the same, Ruban Mathivanan of GK Cinemas says, “The business of cinema has changed drastically in recent times. The release date, marketing and content determine a film’s success. I would say that the Pongal releases Petta and Viswasam worked well for us. The slotting of films has come down to prime shows (evening and night). And films that get good screens and prime shows work to a large extent for its stakeholders.”

Ruban says that the clogging of Tamil releases, along with other language films, has increased the competition. “The trouble with Tamil industry is that they do not announce release dates in advance, especially for festivals. Last year, a record number of films had financial issues and some of them did not release on time, which resulted in cancellation of shows. Today, I have no idea about the Tamil release slated for summer 2019. However, I have already made plans for the big release — Avengers: Endgame, which opens on April 26,” he explains.

The transformation is happening at the ground level with many producers realising that, unless they make their film on a specific budget, they cannot make money from theatricals alone. For a film to yield profits, the producer should also strike a deal with OTT platforms and television channels much before the release. Veteran producer-director Mukesh Mehta, who’s gearing up for Bala’s Varmaa, says, “Making a film on a specified budget is the most important factor. And you have to adapt to changing times.”

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 4:30:10 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/the-one-week-game-in-kollywood/article26191351.ece

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