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Big budget southern films likely to push dates for pan-India release

Kannada period action drama KGF: Chapter 2 is likely to be pushed in the wait to capture the north Indian market. (Photo: Twitter @TheNameIsYash)Premium
Kannada period action drama KGF: Chapter 2 is likely to be pushed in the wait to capture the north Indian market. (Photo: Twitter @TheNameIsYash)

  • More than 60% of recoveries of big-budget films come from release in domestic theatres and filmmakers have realised over the past year that television broadcasters and streaming platforms also have budgets they work with and cannot exceed those to acquire films

NEW DELHI: Unlike south Indian language films such as Tamil action film Master and Telugu courtroom drama Vakeel Saab that capitalised on eased restrictions in home territories when released earlier this year, several upcoming southern films are likely to wait for the whole country to open up.

With production budgets of more than Rs200 crore, these are very costly projects dubbed in different languages and will require a pan-India release to recover investments. Launch of titles like SS Rajamouli’s RRR, Allu Arjun’s Pushpa, Ajith’s Valimai, Prabhas’ Radhe Shyam and Kannada period action drama KGF: Chapter 2 is likely to be pushed in the wait to capture the north Indian market.

Major, a biographical action film on the life of 2008 Mumbai attacks martyr Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, shot in Telugu and Hindi and dubbed into Malayalam, which was scheduled for release on 2 July, was pushed indefinitely late last month.

“Last year, when the situation was not that critical, there was a nationwide lockdown and theatres were permitted to reopen only in October. This time, when things are worse, it is definitely not going to be that easy (to get to pan-India openings) and these films may have to wait," Atul Mohan, editor of trade magazine Complete Cinema said.

Big-budget, multilingual projects like these make for risky propositions in today’s times, Mohan added, though they were announced at a time when the makers possibly thought things would get better.

“Release in theatres is the biggest avenue for these films to make returns, and they cannot shift the burden on satellite and digital sales," Mohan said.

More than 60% of recoveries of big-budget films come from release in domestic theatres and filmmakers have realised over the past year that television broadcasters and streaming platforms also have budgets they work with and cannot exceed those to acquire films. Besides, some direct-to-digital film releases did not resonate with the audiences and proved expensive for platforms.

Film producer, trade and exhibition expert Girish Johar said investments for these films were based on calculations of recovery from multiple languages and key Hindi markets like Maharashtra and Delhi, which together contribute over 60% of box office for the same. “They also have key Bollywood talent in place which would also contribute to some percentage of revenue realization," Johar pointed out.

While RRR will see Alia Bhatt and Ajay Devgn alongside Telugu stars Ram Charan and Jr NTR, Prabhas has two films—Adipurush with Saif Ali Khan and Kriti Sanon and an untitled film with Deepika Padukone and Amitabh Bachchan. KGF 2 features Sanjay Dutt and Raveena Tandon along with Kannada star Yash.

“Everyone is looking at big recovery. Even if theatres reopen, they will not be allowed 100% capacity and will not see too many people coming in. Filmmakers would want at least 75% capacity," Mukesh Mehta, founder of Malayalam film production and distribution company E4 Entertainment. While some Malayalam films could be scheduled for the Onam weekend in August, Mehta said big films may only plan releases towards the end of the year now.

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