HEADLINES:
February 24 2018
Tamil cinema’s New Year resolutions
03 January 2018

With a handful of biggies, will the industry touch the ₹2000-crore mark?

A brand new year starts for Kollywood. A lot of hope is riding on the industry due to the phenomenal success of big-budget blockbusters like Baahubali 2 and Mersal. Plus the growth of content-driven films such as Vikram Vedha augur well for the Tamil film industry. As a result, 2018 promises to be a very crucial and exciting year.

A year of blockbusters

To begin with, let’s take a look the line up of biggies this year. After a long gap, 2018 will see the release of films of all the top stars. Superstar Rajinikanth, who plunged into Tamil Nadu politics, will have 2.0 coming up in April followed three months later by Kaala in July. Kamal Haasan’s Viswaroopam 2 is slated in the first quarter of the year which will be followed by Sabaash Naidu sometime later.

Vijay starts shoot of his new AR Murugadoss-directed social entertainer, referred by fans as Thalapathy 62 by the end of this month. Ajith has already announced his Siva-directed Viswasam and shoot for the film will start in a few days. Suriya’s eagerly-awaited Vignesh Shivan-directed Thaanaa Serndha Koottam is getting ready for a Pongal release. The popular star will also have one more release this year with a working title Suriya 36, a Selvaraghavan-directed thriller for which shoot starts January end.

 

Sivakarthikeyan’s Ponram-directed untitled film will have a summer release. Vikram has three films lined up for release — Vijay Chandar’s Sketch for January, Gautham Menon’s Dhruva Natchathiram for summer and the Hari-directed Saamy Square for Independence Day weekend  while Dhanush has Enai Noki Paayum Thota, Vada Chennai and Maari 2.

2018 is not only the year of the biggies, but also an avalanche of small-budget content driven films will hit the screens. Last year’s breakthrough in small films has given a new hope to the industry. A few women-centric films, made on a shoe-string budget, are also in the pipeline.

A rise of the underdogs

Last year’s hits have given a new confidence to private financiers. A Chennai-based financier is funding content-based films to producers who can make it on a limited budget. The producer can keep Tamil Nadu theatricals with him while internet rights, overseas theatricals and satellite rights will be pledged to the financier. The theatre and the digital streaming platform (Amazon, Netflix) release window which is around 25 to 30 days now, may further come down this year.

Meanwhile, the business of cinema in Tamil Nadu too has changed, for the better. The theatres have almost stopped paying MG (Minimum Guarantee) amounts for big hero films. The theatres are willing to give returnable advance deposit against a movie and that too only small amounts, which will be adjusted against opening week collections. Last year, the state government increased ticket prices officially after 10 years. However, following new ticket rates along with GST and local body entertainment tax (LBET) implementation, footfalls in theatres across Tamil Nadu fell sharply.

New pricing

In Chennai city, not even a single multiplex is charging the government stipulated rate for highest ticket (net amount–₹150 + GST + LBET) and has priced their net at lower amounts. The multiplexes have increased their concession (canteen) rates and kept ticket prices low to attract audiences. This year will see flexi pricing with separate prices for weekdays and weekends, based on demand. This will help increase the footfalls across cinema theatres. And those seeking more comfort, a leading multiplex player is going to introduce limited luxury class seats with recliners (first time in Chennai) at government approved ₹150 net plus taxes.

The size of Tamil industry is between ₹1600 to ₹1800 crore at the moment. It’s within striking distance to cross ₹2000 crore in 2018, with the expanding overseas and growing digital market. Never before has so many biggies been lined for release in a single year.

There is also an appeal for financial discipline and top stars should reduce their salaries and work on sharing profits for the betterment of the industry. The large number of releases and biggies sticking to release date remains a vexing issue. Already three biggies — Vijay 62, Ajith’s Viswasam and Suriya 36 — have announced a Diwali 2018 release. If it happens, it will spell doom for the industry as business will get divided.

A divided house

But there are a few hurdles and challenges facing the industry, which is split down the middle on almost all issues. It is a house divided, unable take a united decision. And with Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan (yet to spell out his plans) entering politics, there are others who also want to fish in the murky waters of Tamil Nadu politics. The associations and its members are at loggerheads, with most of them trying to push down their rivals. The industry needs unity and a more professional approach than anything else at this hour.

 

 

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