Will the festival season finally save Tamil cinema’s sinking business?
The festival season of 2019 was kick-started with last week’s Vinayaga Chaturthi release Saaho, starring Prabhas. The film, released in multiple languages, had a fantastic opening, despite mixed reviews. However, the fact remains that the Tamil version failed to sizzle at the box-office. Now, all eyes are on this week’s Onam releases in Tamil — Gautham Menon’s Enai Noki Paayum Thota and Arya’s revenge-thriller, Magamuni.
It will be followed by the Siddharth and GV Prakash-starrer Sivappu Manjal Pachai, releasing next week, and Suriya’s action-thriller Kaappaan hitting screens on September 20. A slew of releases are being planned for this festival season (see box).
Thing of the past
In January this year, Tamil cinema had a blockbuster Pongal season, when Rajinikanth’s Petta and Ajith’s Viswasam clashed at the box-office. These two films also brought back the family audiences to cinemas and worked in the trade’s favour. Since then, there have been hits like Kanchana 3, Dhilluku Dhuddu 2, Thadam, LKG, Comali, but none could match the success of the Pongal winners. The market is facing a major crisis as footfalls across Tamil Nadu have declined. Leading financiers have slowed down due to a severe cash crunch. Some of them have stopped funding projects, as over 100 films — started in the last 18 months — are lying in the cans. In 2019 alone, more than 20 films had a delayed release because of last-minute financial hurdles. The big question is: Will Enai Noki Paayum Thota release tomorrow amidst its long-pending debts?
- September 6 — Enai Noki Paayum Thota, Magamuni, Zombie
- September 13 — Sivappu Manjal Pachai
- September 20 — Kaappaan
- September 27 — Namma Veetu Pillai
- October 2 — Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy (Tamil bilingual) War (dubbed in Tamil)
- October 4 — Asuran, Sanga Thamizhan, 100% Kadhal
- October 10 — Action Jada
- October 18 — Maamanithan
- October 27 — Bigil, Kaithi
- November 8 — Adithya Varma
- The aforementioned dates have been given by the producers and trade sources. The release dates may subject to change.
Meenakshi Sundaram, distributor and manager of Mayajaal multiplex, says, “What we need is blockbusters, so that we can bring back the family audiences to the theatres. The festival season is here with back-to-back biggies like Kaapppaan, Enga Veetu Pillai, Asuran, Sanga Thamizhan, Bigil and Kaithi slated for release. It is going to be a logistical nightmare for theatre programmers with so many releases. The content, too, needs to live up to expectations, as the theatre-viewing experience continues to be the major form of entertainment for family audiences.”
Within the industry, there is a talk of recession taking a toll since footfalls have come down especially in Chengalpet. A theatre owner in Chengalpet on the condition of anonymity, says, “I was going through our records, taking a comparative look at the footfalls in August this year and last, and it clearly shows that the audiences have come down by 8%! I can only attribute this to the auto industry slowdown and layoffs which have eaten into the box-office, despite having hits like Nerkonda Paarvai, Comali and The Lion King. There’s no scope for repeat audience, and families visit theatres only in the second week. People who seek entertainment have come down to a trickle mainly due to the cash crunch.”
The Tamil film industry faces a challenge — to see that all films slated for release make it to the screens, without any last-minute hiccups. The festival season is a prime time to mint money at the box office. If a movie doesn’t release as per plan during this period, then it’s going to a self-inflicted wound.
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