After poor year for Bollywood, southern industry sees dull Pongal releases
New Delhi: After a disastrous 2017 that resulted in earnings that were 10-15% lower than most years, Bollywood seems to have passed on its theatrical crisis to the south.
The festive Pongal weekend starting last Friday has not brought the best of returns even for big star-cast films. While megastar Suriya’s heist film, Thaanaa Serndha Koottam (TSK), a Tamil adaptation of Neeraj Pandey’s Special 26, has opened marginally better at Rs2.27 crore in Chennai, others are lagging far behind. According to trade analyst Ramesh Bala, Tamil action thriller Sketch, starring Vikram, has made Rs1.30 crore, while action comedy Gulaebaghavali, featuring Prabhu Dheva, has earned Rs43 lakh.
To be sure, independent trade analyst Sreedhar Pillai said the biggest disappointment of the season is Pawan Kalyan’s Telugu film Agnyaathavaasi. While exact box office figures of the Rs50 crore film are yet to be sourced, news reports suggest collections of around Rs10 crore in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, which is hugely underwhelming for the festive season.
Though there are still two more days of public holidays left, but in comparison, last Pongal had produced money-spinners like Shatamanam Bhavati, Gautamiputra Satakarni and Khaidi No. 150, which had minted lifetime collections of Rs20 crore, Rs60-70 crore and Rs100 crore, respectively.
The unimpressive festival turnout mirrors the situation in the north. Apart from Rohit Shetty’s blockbuster comedy Golmaal Again, a Diwali 2017 release that made Rs205.69 crore, many other recent festival offerings have failed to bring cheer. Salman Khan’s Eid release Tubelight earned Rs119.26 crore, while the Republic Day films last year, Raees and Kaabil, managed Rs137.51 crore and Rs103.84 crore, respectively.
“The entire festival craze has disappeared,” Pillai said. “It’s not about content, footfalls in theatres have reduced across the nation.”
This may also have to do, Pillai added, with the increase in ticket prices. Last year, the Tamil Nadu government officially increased prices by nearly 50-60% from the rates that had remained stagnant for the past 10 years, he said.
To be sure, Bollywood and Hollywood films for the week do not have much to do with the dismal box office performance of the regional language movies. Anurag Kashyap’s Mukkabaaz, Saif Ali Khan-starrer Kaalakaandi and Vikram Bhatt’s 1921 have made Rs4.04 crore, Rs3.85 crore and Rs6.45 crore, respectively, in all-India box office collections.
“Screens are bifurcated quite well in the south,” said film trade and exhibition expert Girish Johar. “The south Indian language films have every opportunity to take over the Hindi and Hollywood releases.”
Another disadvantage for the Pongal releases is the reduced theatrical window. Unlike earlier, when big-ticket films that came out on the festive weekend would enjoy an uninterrupted run for at least four weeks, there are major releases now vying for attention as early as the Republic Day weekend. A bunch of films, including historical horror thriller Bhaagamathie, action drama Madura Veeran, comedy drama Mannar Vagaiyara, comedy adventure drama Oru Nalla Naal Paathu Solren, comedy drama Nimir and science fiction thriller Tik Tik Tik, are scheduled for the 26 January weekend.
“There is just so much competition and only one film can survive like Vijay’s Mersal did for Diwali this time,” Pillai said. “The whole business model has changed, there are too many releases and so many entertainment options besides just watching movies in the theatre.”