Black Panther, Padmaavat are highest grossers in Tamil Nadu box office as strike over South Indian films continues

Sreedhar Pillai

Mar,09 2018 13:13:47 IST

This year has started on a dull note for Kollywood. In the first two months of 2018, there have been 33 Tamil releases, but none of them can be termed as super hits. Only two films have done reasonably well for the trade: the Sundar C directed comedy multi-starrer Kalakalappu 2 and Bala directed Jyothika-GV Prakash thriller Naachiyaar.

Kalakalappu 2, a mass comedy entertainer, has performed well in multiplexes and small town single screens. The film was sold to distributors in Tamil Nadu for around Rs 10 cr and will collect between 10.5 to 11.5 cr and make a marginal profit. Naachiyaar was made on a shoe string budget and is expected to take a share between Rs 6 to 7 cr from the Tamil Nadu market. None of the other films released this year were profitable for their buyers.

The cast of Padmaavat.

And now with the standoff between south Indian film producers and Digital Service Providers (DSP), from 1 March, there are no new Tamil releases. The strike has been called off by all other industries and new releases have started from March 9, except in Tamil cinema. The Tamil Film Producers Council (TFPC) is still at loggerheads with DSPs and is in no mood to accept the new reduced Virtual Print Fee (VPF) rates offered by them.

Also read | Telugu film producers vs digital service providers: A lowdown on the feud that could bring film industry to a grinding halt

This has led to a situation where footfalls across cinema theatres in the state have taken a beating. Many shows are getting cancelled due to lack of audiences and in small towns and rural areas most of the screens are not operating matinee and noon shows. The theatres have hit back and put the ball in the government's court; they've said they will close down indefinitely from 16 March. The Tamil Nadu Theatre Owners Association (TNTOA) has now put forward five demands to the state government, three out of which government had agreed to six months back.

Here are the demands: the abolition of LBET (Local Body Entertainment Tax); approval for renovation and building of new theatres to be solely handled by Public Works Department (PWD) and not multiple agencies; theatre licenses to be renewed every three years instead of yearly renewal as of now; theatre maintenance charges which are part of ticket rate should be increased; and dismissal of the archaic law which says a projector operator should have license, when theatres have switched to digital.

However the Chennai city multiplexes have refused to tow the line taken by TNTOA and said for them the show will go on.

A still from Black Panther.

Meanwhile the two big hits of 2018 at the Chennai Box-Office is Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavaat and Disney’s Black Panther. The buzz is that Padmavaat in 3D in Hindi and Tamil has done extraordinary business in Tamil Nadu and has grossed around Rs 18 crores. Trade sources say that distributor share after all taxes and theatre-hire would be in the Rs 8 to 10 cr, as big as a medium star cast Tamil hit. The Hollywood film The Black Panther did reasonably well, though it did not have a Tamil release.

Chennai multiplexes now feel the OLF (other language films) — notably English, Hindi, Telugu and Malayalam content — will keep them running their screens.

As PL Thenappan, a Tamil producer and actor, remarked: “Good content will always find an audience irrespective of the language. The trouble with Tamil cinema is that they lack quality content to attract audiences and films are shot at budgets which are not commercially viable. Today every Tamil film is releasing on digital video platforms, 25 days after its theatrical release. Unless Tamil cinema gets its act together, the success rate is going to come down further.”

Now the big question being asked is whether the summer releases will be out on schedule, due to the ongoing strike in the industry and proposed theatre shutdown from 16 March 16. As per sources, the Digital Service Providers have drastically cut down on Virtual Print Fee (VPF), and the exhibitors are also very keen on new releases, to increase footfalls in theatres.

A compromise is being worked out between producers and DSPs, as one more week of ‘no new releases in Tami’ will cause further trouble for the industry.

Updated Date: Mar 09, 2018 13:13 PM