Tradewinds Cinema

Is Thursday the new Friday?

Last Thursday (September 8) was not a public holiday, yet it saw two Tamil films—Vikram’s Iru Mugan and Shanthnu Bhagyaraj’s Vaaimai – releasing. In Kerala too, where Onam fever has begun, Mohanlal’s Oppam and Prithviraj’s Oozham released on Thursday. Why are makers gravitating towards a Thursday release?

Traditionally, new films have always released on Fridays. It was a practice that began in Hollywood, U.S.A, in 1939, when Clark Gable’s all-time classic Gone with the Wind released on Friday, December 15. During those days, in the U.S, Friday was the weekly pay day, and families visited cinema halls during the weekend. India, which did not have a chosen day of the week to release new films, started adapting this Hollywood practice of a Friday release. K Asif’s Dilip Kumar magnum opus Mughal-E-Azam was one of the earliest films to be released on Friday (August 5, 1960). Soon after, regional films also started releasing on Friday.

Mohan Raman, actor and Tamil film historian, says, “Tamil films have released on a Friday except when festivals like Pongal, Tamil New Year and Deepavali fall on other days. Release on a Thursday, a working day, seems to be a new trend. Considering how superstitious the industry is, it could be because Thursday is considered to be auspicious.”

Vijay’s Theri released on April 14, 2016, a Thursday (Tamil New Year), and Ajith’s Vedalam released on November 10, 2015 (Deepavali), a Tuesday. Both films were blockbusters, though the second day after the release was a working day. Another recent example of a big star getting away with a mid-week release was Salman Khan’s Eid blockbuster Sultan, which opened on a Wednesday. The trade justifies it and says a superstar with an opening has a loyal fan base which would fill up the theatres.

In an industry where astrology plays an important role in decision-making, Iru Mugan’s release was set for Thursday, though it was not a long holiday weekend, as Friday (September 9) was considered to be inauspicious ( Ashtami). Sources within the trade also cite number eight as Vikram’s lucky number.

A leading producer points out that there are some practical reasons too: “For the last few months, Tamil films were getting released in overseas markets, especially Malaysia and UAE, even before the Indian screening on Friday morning. This generated negative reviews on social media and spoilers.” Iru Mugan, incidentally, had its Dubai première (attended by Vikram), a few hours after its theatrical release in India.

However, a lot of producers and distributors strongly believe that a Friday release is ideal with an exception to be made only for festival releases. Distributor and producer Mukesh R. Mehta says, “A Friday release gives the film a three-day uninterrupted run. The trouble with a Thursday release is that all films will take a beating on Friday, usually a working day, and this may end up generating bad word-of-mouth. Cinema is increasingly becoming a weekend business, and for any film to work, it is the family audiences that matter.”

AU.S.-based distributor, on condition of anonymity, says: “ Iru Mugan lost out in the U.S. as it had an India release on Thursday and we premièred it on Wednesday night. Footfalls were bad, and in fact, the première audience was more for the dubbed version in Telugu. Right now, I’m negotiating for two of the three Tamil Deepavali releases. The producers are not keen on a Friday release as this year, the festival falls on a Saturday (October 29). But I will not take up those films unless they are Friday releases and I get to première them on Thursday. Producers should realise that by the time our (U.S.) show ends, Kasi and Vettri back home in Chennai would have started their early morning shows.”

A spokesperson of the Tamil Film Producers Council says,“We will not allow anyone to dictate terms regarding the release day. That’s entirely up to the producer, who has hundreds of hurdles to cross before he confirms a release date. As far as festivals are concerned, the Tamil cinema sentiment has always been to release on the day of the festival, regardless of whether it is a Friday or Monday. Since this Deepavali falls on a Saturday, people will be out shopping on Thursday and Friday. Cinema will not be their priority on those days.”

Today, Hollywood films in India are generating new revenue streams by having Thursday night paid premières. Meanwhile, a plan to start Thursday-night paid premières for Tamil films has been shot down by industry associations. The reason given is that negotiations for most Tamil films go on until the last minute. This year alone, nearly a dozen Tamil films opened only by evening on release day. Some producers feel premières will only help piracy, suggesting that youth audiences are more tuned to early morning first-day first-shows.

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Printable version | Dec 3, 2020 1:18:56 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/Is-Thursday-the-new-Friday/article14633039.ece

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