Kollywood struggles with footfalls; Petta, Viswasam among rare few Tamil films to be declared hits in 2019 so far

Sreedhar Pillai

Jul 10, 2019 13:58:53 IST

2019 started with a bang for Kollywood, with two blockbusters releasing on same day in January for Pongal – Rajinikanth’s Petta and Ajith Kumar’s Viswasam. But come June, a series of big films have bombed and the summer box-office, that usually rakes in good numbers, has not taken off as expected.

 Kollywood struggles with footfalls; Petta, Viswasam among rare few Tamil films to be declared hits in 2019 so far

Ajith in a still from Viswasam and Rajinikanth in a still from Petta. Twitter

What worked and didn't work

IPL 2019, Lok Sabha elections, Cricket World Cup, along with poor content, has taken a toll as audiences have found other forms of entertainment. Tamil Nadu's water scarcity has added to the woes of the film industry, as footfalls in cinemas across the state have declined. According to Tamil Nadu exhibitors association, 2019 had the lowest footfalls in the last decade during peak summer months of May and June.

Kollywood, which produces the largest number of films a year in India, crossed a century with 107 Tamil releases as of 30 June. Out of this, six films – Petta, Viswasam, Kanchana3, Thadam, Dhilluku Dhuddu 2, LKG – have made money for all arms of the trade. This means from the parking lot contractor, concessions to distributor, exhibitor and producer everybody made money from these films. They were profitable from their Tamil Nadu theatrical rights alone. Three other films – Natpe Thunai, Monster, Kolaigaran — got their profits from other rights.

Among the lot, Petta and Viswasam are bonafide blockbusters, and Kanchana 3 and Thadam are super hits. Films made on a low budget like LKG and Dhilluku Dhuddu 2 had higher return on investment, making them hits too. There were also films Peranbu, Sarvam Thaala Mayam, To Let, Super Deluxe and House Owner that found critical acclaim and niche audiences in multiplexes. But these films could not penetrate down to tier 2 and 3 markets where commercial cinema ruled the roost.

Stills from Super Deluxe. Twitter

Stills from Super Deluxe. Image from Twitter

There's also Suriya’s NGK, which took a huge opening but could not sustain numbers, while Sivakarthikeyan’s Mr Local turned out to be a dud at the box-office. Vishal’s Ayogya was a non-starter, Vijay Sethupathi’s Sindhubaadh, which had a lot riding on it, collapsed, while Karthi’s Dev turned out to be an epic disaster. The failure of small budget films created a situation where theatres refused to schedule regular shows or relegated them to noon or morning shows during the weekend. The multiplexes in Chennai city and its suburbs in Chengalpet area gave prime showcase to other language films like Hollywood blockbuster Avengers: Endgame or even Kabir Singh over Tamil content.

Financial indiscipline within Kollywood & massive delay in releases

What's more alarming is the huge financial mess that the Rs 1200 crore industry got into, with films unable to hit screens on their stipulated release day. The stakeholders — actors, producers, distributors, exhibitors and the all important financiers — are at loggerheads with each other over this matter. Financial compromises are being made and actors and star technicians have ended up losing a part of their salary. This year, 17 films did not release on time and had a delayed release. The delay means loss of money and audiences losing interest in the film, with all promotional activities going to waste. None of the films which had a delayed release fared well at the box-office. Moreover, there is audience fatigue and lack of interest in new films, with half a dozen releases every week. This comes at a time when the common man is running around to solve his daily problem like finding water and balancing his monthly budget.

Meanwhile, all the associations in the industry are at each other’s throat. The once powerful Tamil Film Producers Council (TFPC) is being run by a government appointed committee. The Nadigar Sangam elections have taken place but counting of votes has been stayed by the High Court.

Film critics become scapegoats

The blame for financial indiscipline and bad content has been put on critics and their bad reviews. At a meeting between producers and PROs it was decided that those who run down or give bad reviews for Tamil films will not be invited for press screenings, audio and trailer launches or success meets. However, it was reported today that the Tamil Producers Council has withdrawn the circular banning film critics from cinema-related events due to backlash.

Here's hoping the latter half of 2019 fares better.

Updated Date: Jul 10, 2019 14:01:43 IST