IPL 2019: How the cricket extravaganza is likely to affect Tamil cinema in an already disappointing year

Sreedhar Pillai

Mar 23, 2019 18:11:08 IST

Indian Premier League (IPL) 2019 season starts from Saturday in Chennai with the first match between local favourites Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Royal Challengers Bengaluru (RCB). The IPL returns to Chennai after three years (two-year ban and last year shifted out of Chennai owing to political reasons), and CSK were IPL 2018 champions. CSK, under Captain MS Dhoni, is one of the biggest brands in sports and has a huge following across the world.

IPL 2019: How the cricket extravaganza is likely to affect Tamil cinema in an already disappointing year

Sivakarthikeyan in a still from Mr. Local. Image via Twitter

The Saturday match between CSK, led by Dhoni, and RCB, under Virat Kohli, is a sold out game at MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai. In fact, tickets of all denominations were sold out within an hour of it going up for sale. Nearly 20,000 people turned up for the CSK net session and a practice match between the players on Sunday was also a full house. One of the fans breached security and shook hands with Dhoni, and the video went viral. In a state where Tamil superstars are worshiped, cricketers are the new gods.

The summer of 2019, as far as entertainment is concerned, will be dominated by IPL and the interest whipped up by the Lok Sabha Election 2019. The Kollywood movies are definitely going to take a backseat as IPL matches are going to eat into the prime time evening and night shows. Youth audiences make up about 90 percent of viewers for movies and cricket. And Star Sports will have continuous coverage in Tamil for the IPL matches, with celebrities like RJ Balaji anchoring the shows. Many hotels and bars will set up giant television screens to live stream IPL matches, with attractive discounts on liquor and food. Plus, a lot of people invite friends home to watch it on their huge home screens. And the 18 Tamil news channels of the state are busy making the Lok Sabha Election into some kind of entertainment, in their quest for high TRPs. 

Meanwhile, the Tamil Nadu box office will take a beating due to poor footfalls in movie theatres. This year so far, 45 Tamil films have been released and only four of them are profitable (Viswasam, Petta, LKG and Thadam) at the box office, a mere 1.8 percent of the total releases. Next Friday, there are another six Tamil releases, making Kollywood reach the fastest 50 releases in 81 days of the year. Most of these films are by first timers with unknown actors and run for one or two shows, before they disappear from theatres. The audiences patronise only big hero Tamil films and watch others on OTT platforms, which are increasingly becoming popular. In the prime summer months of April and May, there are hardly any big hero films from actors like Rajinikanth, Vijay, Ajith or Suriya. Sivakarthikeyan’s Mr Local (1 May) and Raghava Lawrence’s Kanchana 3 (19 April) are the only big summer releases as of now.

However, Rakesh Gowthaman of Vettri Theatre in Chrompet, one of the highest collecting theatres in Chennai suburbs, says, “As of now, box office collections are low due to exam season and poor Tamil content. We have survived mainly because of screening old golden hits as part of our ‘Throwback Hits In Vettri’ where we screened films like Gravity, The Dark Knight , Avatar, Theri, Billa etc in state of the art laser projection. As far as IPL is concerned, on days when CSK is playing, there will be a marginal drop, otherwise it is business as usual depending on content. From 28 March, we have a steady stream of Tamil content, which we hope will work, like Nayanthara’s Airaa, Vijay Sethupathi’s Super Deluxe, Lawrence’s Kanchana 3, Sivakarthikeyan’s Mr. Local and the biggest of them all, Avengers: Endgame on 26 April.”  

The Kollywood producers say that they are now used to IPL. Some of the biggest hits have released in the summer months of April and May. As producer PL Thenappan says, “Cinema will remain the biggest form of entertainment in Tamil Nadu and people, irrespective of IPL, will come out of their homes, especially family audiences, and watch movies on the big screen if the content is attractive. This year, more than the IPL, it will be the World Cup starting end May, which may cause some concern. But the show must go on, otherwise the backlog of films will cause more problems.”

Updated Date: Mar 23, 2019 18:11:08 IST

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