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New Delhi: South Indian cinemas, which have so far remained relatively less impacted by covid-induced disruptions compared to their northern counterparts, may be in for some bad news. Trade experts said the period of Ramzan could keep a lot of viewers out of theatres, especially in Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, which were witnessing good box office results until now.

Moreover, Tamil Nadu, which has already capped theatre occupancies at 50%, is running short on movies featuring big stars, which are the only offerings drawing crowds. Smaller Tamil films have seen little to no returns so far post the pandemic. Two Telugu films, Love Story and Tuck Jagdish have recently pushed releases in light of rising cases, reflecting the current sentiment with producers getting jittery in the region. The south has, so far, managed to churn out money-spinners after theatre were allowed to reopen late last year.

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“There are about seven to 10 saleable stars in Tamil Nadu who can bring in big openings; but other than them, small-budget and non-star cast films will not manage to attract an audience right now," independent trade analyst Sreedhar Pillai said.

While Dhanush’s Karnan and an action film called Sulthan starring Karthi released in the past few weeks managed to draw crowds, Pillai said theatres have no option but to continue playing the two titles for the rest of the month too. Earlier, Vijay’s Tamil film Master, released for Pongal, had crossed the 100 crore mark, riding on the actor’s star power. However, several smaller titles released in the interim, such as romantic drama Care of Kaadhal, horror thriller Idhu Vibathu Paguthi, Vijay Sethupathi’s romantic anthology Kutti Story, romantic comedy Naanum Single Thaan, comedy Parris Jeyaraj, and action dramas Aangal Jaakitharai and Kaadan, did not generate any buzz.

Under ordinary circumstances, the Tamil New Year celebrated earlier this week would have marked the release of big-ticket titles; but despite theatres remaining functional in the state, producers have held back.

Moreover, the ongoing Ramzan period is auspicious across states such as Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka and Kerala and is likely to keep those fasting, outside cinemas. The new Telugu offerings this week only include smaller titles such as Checkmate, Chittibabu and Deyyam.

As far as south India goes, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala have capped seating occupancies in movie theatres at 50% while Andhra Pradesh and Telangana continue to operate at 100%. Last week’s big Telugu release, courtroom drama Vakeel Saab, a remake of Amitabh Bachchan-starrer Pink, had made over Rs87 crore within the first five days, in domestic box office collections alone.

“News from the south has been extremely positive for us so far and we can only hope there are no other government restrictions coming in," Kunal Sawhney, senior vice-president at Carnival Cinemas had said in an earlier interview to Mint on how recent curbs, curfews and shutdowns in states such as Maharashtra had derailed recovery just when things had started rolling again.

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