Last Updated : Jan 08, 2019 02:41 PM IST | Source:

Tamil cinema begins 2019 on a high note after 2018 emerged strong despite 50-day strike

Releasing on January 10, Rajinikanth’s Petta and Ajith's Viswasam are aiming to cash in on the Pongal festival period

Maryam Farooqui @farooqui_maryam

The Tamil film industry is beginning 2019 with two major releases -- Rajinikanth’s Petta and Ajith's Viswasam. It’s a clash between two Kollywood biggies and they are fighting for around 1,000 theatres in Tamil Nadu.

Releasing on January 10, makers of both films are aiming to cash in on the Pongal festival period. It is unusual for a big-ticket movie to release alongside a Rajinikanth movie.

Both movies have created a buzz in international markets. Petta has pocketed $315,000 (approximately Rs 2 crore) at the US box office in pre-sales from 140 locations, according to film trade analyst Ramesh Bala.

As for Viswasam, it is among the five Tamil/Telugu new releases at the US box office and ranks third in pre-sales.

Starting on a high note, plenty of Tamil films will hit theatres this year taking the count to possibly over 250 releases. According to experts, Tamil cinema produces the highest number of movies in the film industry which, on an average, releases about 200 films every year.

Last year too, the industry in southern India produced around 180 films, according to analysts. However, lack of screens and the 50-day shutdown were major hiccups for Kollywood in 2018. Yet, the industry had a larger share of successful films.

While lower screen count is a pan-India issue for the film industry, it was the standoff between Tamil Film Producers’ Council (TFPC) and digital service providers (DSP) that marred Kollywood in 2018. The producers were demanding lower rates of the Virtual Print Fee (VPF) that DSPs charge for the release and casting of movies on screens across India.

As screens operate digitally, exhibitors are in need of digital cinema equipment which is provided by DSPs. The producers were demanding the service providers to bring the prices down by 25 percent across the board.

TFPC President Vishal, had said that the industry was spending a lot on VPF and that there should not only be a price cut but the fee should be withdrawn after a period of time. The conditions laid down by TFPC were that Rs 12,000 should be paid as VPF and the fee should be done away with after three years.

During the stalemate, no new releases had hit the theatres. What made it worse was that producers had chosen the holiday season for the strike. It is during this time when exhibitors make most of their money in a year. Even film shoots were on a halt during that time. The strike which started on March 1 ended on April 19, 2018.

According to reports, the Tamil film industry incurred a loss of Rs 5-8 crore every day on an average during the strike.

Apart from producers and theatre owners, the film crew suffered the most during the shutdown.

In addition, when the industry resumed work, a large number of films were left to be released in theatres which led to overcrowding. And this, in turn, led to small films losing out screens and even being removed from theatres.

Experts believe that critically acclaimed films like Raatchasan, Pariyerum Perumal, Vada Chennai and 96 could have done better at the box office if not for content overload.

Tamil industry saw the longest-ever strike observed in its history but it still managed to keep the cash registers ringing. Big size film like 2.0 not only brought strong numbers at the box office but also put the global spotlight on Indian cinema thanks to the visual effects in the film.

Even small-ticket films did not disappoint. As many as 10 small size films made huge sums at the ticket window.

Experts say that 2018 would have been a better year for Tamil film industry had there been an adequate screen count in the country.
First Published on Jan 8, 2019 02:41 pm
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