Kollywood had a great Diwali 2017, with Vijay’s Mersal turning out to be a blockbuster. It revived the trade, boosted box-office collections, and gave a shot in the arm for new ticket rates implemented by the Tamil Nadu government. Mersal is reported to have grossed over Rs 100 Crore from Tamil Nadu theatricals alone in three weeks. The ticket rates were officially increased for the first time in 11 years, and state government also allowed flexi pricing in the slab prescribed depending on the theatre and place.
However post Diwali, the market took a slide as most audiences felt the ticket rates were too high for a non-star Tamil film.
And from November, Kollywood faces its usual problem: too many releases every Friday. There are far too many releases targeting the same weekend and the audiences are getting divided. This weekend will see five Tamil releases: Nayanthara’s Aramm, Udhayanidhi Stalin’s Ippadi Vellum, Suseenthiran directed Nenjil Thunni Irundhal , Tharissu Nilam and 143.
Tamil produces maximum number of films released in any language in India, year after year. For the last three years in a row, Kollywood has scored a double century. Last year saw 205 releases, and this year up to November 10, it will touch 171 releases. Now, the pre-Pongal months will be crucial for the Tamil film industry. There are nearly 40 to 50 big and small films scheduled to release in the last eight Fridays of 2017. The release pipeline is getting clogged with four to five films (most of them don’t even get reviewed) a week fighting for theatre space. And if the WOM (word – of –mouth) is not encouraging on social media, the drop in collections is immediate.
Leading exhibitor and distributor Tirupur Subramaniam says, “A release date is crucial for the success of a film. Take, for example, Mersal. It grossed big because it was released during Diwali and had a very big star like Vijay. It was virtually a solo release and the controversies helped. Now the acid test begins; will people come to the theatres to watch these new films which do not boast of big stars at higher ticket rates? The way forward is to go for flexible ticket rates at lower prices.”
A Chennai city multiplex programming manager says, “Every year, there are around 200 Tamil releases and another 300 from other languages (English, Hindi, Telugu and Malayalam) to be accommodated in a slot of 52 weeks. The average life of a Tamil film is just a week and only a big hero or films with decent word-of-mouth (WOM) work, the rest are a waste of playing time.”
Producer G Dhananjayan, a writer on cinema who also runs a film institute, says, “Too many releases are not only clogging the release pipeline but also eating into each other’s collections. It is cannibalisation of the worst kind. And even films with good WOM suffers as number of shows gets reduced in their second week to accommodate newer releases, affecting the overall collections. Take for example Siddharth’s horror film Aval, which has been getting good reviews and opened well but in its second week with four newer releases, the number of shows has come down to accommodate newer releases. And today audience’s attention span lasts just for one weekend.”
Says producer PL Thenappan, “ I feel the real cause of Tamil movies faring badly is the large number of choices on any given Friday and the influx of new one-time producers. I agree audiences have a wider choice but the regular cine-goer has no time or money to watch more than one film in a week. Today for any film big or small it is not possible to recover cost of production from theatricals alone. And added to that, Tamil cinema has the highest level of piracy in India.”
The buzz is that the number of production will come down from next year, due to market conditions.