As Tamil Nadu government’s new set of Covid-19 restrictions came into force on Tuesday, the members of the Tamil Nadu Exhibitors Association met virtually to discuss the situation. “In the meeting, we have decided to run theatres as per the government norms,” said Tirupur Subramaniam, the president of the exhibitors’ association.
While there is no complete lockdown, the new restrictions will greatly affect the business prospects of movies. “There are no night shows on weekdays and full lockdown on Sundays. Fearing a big loss in revenue, many producers are withholding their films,” Subramaniam added.
The second wave has hit the country at a time when the Tamil film industry was bustling with a lot of energy. In the last four months, a few big films had revived the box office business in Tamil Nadu, which suffered considerably following the Covid-induced lockdown last March. It was Vijay’s Master in January, which drew the crowd out of their homes in massive numbers. Theatres made up for the 50 per cent cap on the occupancy by running extra shows and early morning fan shows. And 10 days after its initial release, the film was already in the profit zone. The momentum at the box office was sustained by Godzilla vs. Kong, which came out in March. And Karthi’s Sultan also did solid business as theatres had the permission to function with full occupancy by then.
And on April 9, Dhanush’s Karnan hit screens. The hard-hitting film became a top choice for the audience in Tamil Nadu, and it even made good gains in overseas markets. By the end of the first week, the film was declared a blockbuster. “Karnan did a very good business. In distribution circles, none of them incurred the loss,” said Subramaniam.
With new restrictions in place, many filmmakers have already postponed the release of their films in April. Thalaivi, starring Kangana Ranaut and Arvind Swami, was due in cinemas on April 23. However, the filmmakers withheld its release citing rising Covid-19 cases. So did the makers of MGR Magan, starring Sasikumar and Sathyaraj. And the delay in releasing new films will cause a box office draught once again.
“Producers of films like Doctor and Kodiyil Oruvan are waiting to release their films. But, they will release only after the government allows regular shows and relaxes other restrictions,” added Subramaniam.
Unlike last time, the distributors and exhibitors are more emotionally sorted in handling the crisis as they understand the predicament of the producers as well. “Also, only when we run shows properly in full swing, we can approach the producers to release their films,” he said.
At the same time, Tirupur Subramaniam is also confident that the producers would rather wait and release the film in theatres, instead of taking their films to streaming platforms. “I don’t think the producers will go directly to OTT platforms this time. The success of Master and Karnan has given them confidence. They have realized that if they want their movies to make big collections, then they have to stick to theatrical release,” he concluded.