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'Magizhchi' at the box-office

Kabali has had the biggest-ever opening for a Tamil film

July 30, 2016 03:54 pm | Updated July 31, 2016 02:06 am IST

The million dollar question right now is whether Superstar Rajinikanth’s Kabali is a hit or not. Producer Kalaipuli Thanu laid to rest all rumours regarding the film’s box-office performance when made it official at the success meet of the film in Chennai. An emotionally-charged Thanu said, “ Kabali is a superhit; it has grossed around Rs. 320 crore at the worldwide box-office in its opening six days and it has set new records. In Chennai, the film has grossed close to Rs. 6.5 crore in the last six days. It has broken all existing box-office collections in Indian cinema and proves beyond doubt that Rajinikanth is the real superstar.”

Even before its release, Kabali had created a lot of buzz, as theatrical and other rights were sold for a sum close to Rs.200 crore. The film also got lucrative endorsement deals, which further helped create hype around the film. At the U.S. box-office, the film has created history by becoming the highest-collecting Indian film, by grossing a whopping $4.05 million in four days. In India, from theatricals alone, in three languages (Tamil, Telugu and Hindi), it has grossed an estimated Rs. 110 crore, surpassing Salman Khan’s Sultan collections in the opening weekend, said to be around Rs. 105 crore.

Kabali released in India on July 22 in nearly 3,500 screens. From its core area, Tamil Nadu, the film is rumoured to have grossed around Rs. 47 crore in three days, the highest ever. There were also complaints from fans that in the opening weekend, outside of Chennai city limits, the tickets were sold at higher rates—in the Rs. 300 to Rs. 500 range. The figures mentioned above are culled from trade sources and may not be fully accurate.

As per trade sources, the film collected Rs. 20 crore from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Rs. 16 crore from Karnataka, Rs. 8 crore from Kerala and Rs. 19 crore from the Rest of India (Hindi and Tamil versions).

Vijay Singh, CEO of Fox Star Studios, who distributed the film in North India, says, “ Kabali has lived up to the high expectation and opened to packed houses across India. It was expected to garner an earth-shattering opening in the southern markets, and it has indeed, due to the star power of Rajinikanth.”

Of course, there are sceptics who believe that the film has not done as well as expected. Kabali opened to mixed reviews, with most critics giving it low ratings. The high price of the tickets too have created a lot of negativity around the film. However, from Monday, ticket prices fell to normal rates, thereby bringing in the family audiences. The Rajinikanth film, which was released in a record 700 screens across Tamil Nadu, continued its steady run even into the weekdays, and led to a near sell-out even for its second weekend. Rajinikanth’s thanksgiving letter to producer Thanu, director Ranjith and team, fans, media and trade, further increased curiosity.

The success of the film in the international market can be attributed to the Rajinikanth phenomenon. This kind of media frenzy has never been seen before, and the film was covered by almost all international publications and channels. BARC, India’s broadcast audience measurement system, has reported that “ Kabali mania shot the slot up for all regional news channels, showing improvement as high as 40 per cent for Malayalam news channels.” Social media took to Kabali and made it the most trending film ever.

Veteran producer Thanu, who first coined the moniker ‘Superstar’ for Rajinikanth, marketed the film aggressively. In Tamil Nadu, where star-driven films are sold on Minimum Guarantee (MG) basis, Thanu managed to reverse the trend. He marketed the film through his trusted distributors to theatres on stiff terms and conditions. The film was screened outside of Chennai city on returnable advance and terms like double 75-25 (during the first two weeks, the distributor gets 75 per cent of the net amount collected (it was tax-free in TN), with the remaining 25 per cent going to theatres.) No other film has ever been screened with terms and conditions so favourable to the producer. Though there have been some murmurs, there has not been any official complaint (like in the case of Lingaa ) about any losses incurred.

Thanu says, “I can boldly say that Kabali is a hit. How big a hit is, we will know in a few weeks. The film has firmly withstood an onslaught of negative criticism from certain vested interests.”

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