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Big business

The Coimbatore-Nilgiris area has been making rapid strides when it comes to box-office collections. In the 1980s and 90s, Coimbatore was third in total box-office gross figures, after NSC and Madurai area, but today, it is the fastest-growing territory, and number two in the state, after the Chengalpet area.

The Coimbatore-Nilgiris area stretches from Erode in the east to KK Chavadi in the west, bordering Kerala, Udumalpet in the south, touching Madurai district to Thalavady in the north, bordering Karnataka. Surprisingly, the area has just 159 screens, with Nilgiris having just one screen in Ooty (reduced from 32 screens in the 1980s). The top five collecting centres in the area are Coimbatore, Tirupur, Erode, Pollachi and Udumalpet, an indication that it is a mix of both urban and rural audiences.

Coimbatore is the only area in Tamil Nadu that has no shifting centres, as all the screens are releasing stations. A big film sees a simultaneous release in as many as 65 to 75 screens. Also, this area does not encourage the Minimum Guarantee system. From this year, they have even stopped making advance payments to producers and distributors.

A prominent theatre owner, Balasubramaniyam of Baba Complex (Archana and Darsana), Coimbatore, says, “In the 80s and 90s, around 90-100 films used to release every year, and a hit film could run for a minimum of 50 days. Today, with the digital revolution, more than 200 films are releasing every year. If you have noticed, the star system in Tamil cinema itself is crumbling. For example, Irudhi Suttru and Sethupathi collected more from my complex than highly-hyped big-hero films that I played a few months ago. What matters most is content. In this scenario, where is the need for MG or even an advance?”

Tirupur Subramaniam, who controls 58 screens in Coimbatore, including the newly-opened Sri Sakthi multiplex in Tirupur, says, “Film business is doing well in this area, because it has the best screens in Tamil Nadu, with good occupancy due to government-stipulated ticket rates. In fact, in some of the screens, the rates are kept lower than government-approved rates to draw more viewers. I hear reports that tickets are sold at higher rates on the opening weekend of a big-hero film in other areas; it only helps the hero to inflate his box-office collection figures and create a halo around him.”

Subramaniam feels audiences in the Coimbatore territory watch more films per year than other areas, due to affordable ticket rates and the quality of the theatres. “The maximum number of AC theatres outside of Chennai city is in Coimbatore area. There is a large population of working-class and middle-class people, for whom watching a film in a cinema theatre is still the main source of entertainment. Even Hindi and Malayalam films are doing well here, due to the presence of a huge migrant workforce and a large number of educational institutions.”

According to a top Tamil film director, “The audience of the 3Cs — Chennai, Chengalpet and Coimbatore — are largely responsible for the change happening in the content that is coming out of Kollywood. Today, we can experiment within the commercial format and make films like Aviyal and Visaranai, as they have an an audience.”

Many in the trade say that Coimbatore has the potential to become the number one territory in Tamil Nadu if the government allows the conversion of single screens to multiple screens. Balasubramaniyam says, “In the 80s and 90s, screens with large capacity were the order of the day. Today, for most films, especially on working days, not more than 150 to 200 people come to watch a film. That’s why I am in the process of converting my theatre into a five-screen multiplex.” Subramaniam adds, “I don’t understand why the authorities are not giving us permission to convert an existing 800 to 1000-seater theatre to a three or four-screen multiplex. We are hoping that the new government in Tamil Nadu will help, and hope that the Coimbatore area gets as many as 300 to 400 screens in the next two years.” Meanwhile, a new mall multiplex with 10 screens, including an IMAX screen, is coming up in Coimbatore city, and another four-screen multiplex in Gobichettipalayam. These are good days in Coimbatore.

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Printable version | Apr 11, 2021 1:29:35 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/cinema-columns/coimbatorenilgiris-boxoffice-collections-big-business/article8374463.ece

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