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NEW DELHI: Dulquer Salmaan’s Malayalam film Salute has pushed its release date indefinitely even though theatres in Kerala are operating at 50% capacity. It was supposed to release for the Pongal weekend on 14 January.

The action thriller, also produced by Salmaan and directed by Roshan Andrrews, was to compete with Telugu love story Radhe Shyam starring Prabhas in theatres. Both films have been delayed for now as covid cases rise. Salmaan’s Kurup that released last November and made over 50 crore worldwide, was the first Malayalam film to hit the big screen post the second covid wave.

Kerala has been among the the worst affected by the covid-19 pandemic and the film exhibition industry in the state is estimated to have lost 500 crore in revenue. Kerala releases roughly 100-120 movies in theatres.

The state is home to about 545 theatres, including single screens and multiplexes. While several stars of the region such as Fahadh Faasil have found a ready audience on OTT (over-the-top) streaming platforms, many other films remain stuck, unable to find buyers with no clarity on whether they will find space in theatres that may not be able to accommodate and play the backlog of films that has accumulated, in the coming months.

The long shutdown of movie theatres has benefited many niche, small-budget south Indian language films, especially in Tamil and Malayalam, that do not cast bigger stars and get lost in the clutter of releases multiple releases in theatres. It is common for southern movie industries to see more than half a dozen releases every week, a much higher volume compared to Bollywood.

A film starring Fahadh Faasil or Mohanlal may be paid even close to 20 crore for an OTT premiere, depending on the appeal of the content and an average Malayalam film too will be picked up for 4-5 crore, making good money for the producer.

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