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Malls and theatres will be among the last to open, (Photo: Reuters.)
Malls and theatres will be among the last to open, (Photo: Reuters.)

Tamil film industry braces for 500 crore loss this summer

  • Vijay’s Master, Surya’s Soorarai Pottru, Dhanush’s Jagame Thandiram and Jayaram Ravi’s Bhoomi have been deferred
  • The lockdown followed a fairly tepid 2019 for the Tamil box office

NEW DELHI: The Tamil film industry is staring at a loss of 500 crore this summer as a result of four blockbusters being postponed due to the covid-19 lockdown.

With the release of superstar Vijay’s action thriller Master, Surya’s Soorarai Pottru, Dhanush’s Jagame Thandiram and Jayaram Ravi’s Bhoomi deferred, the Tamil movie industry or Kollywood as it is more popularly known, will have the driest summer in years, losing out on the lucrative pre-Ramzan period before the month of fasting begins in full force.

The covid-19 lockdown has spelt doom for India’s film business in general, leading to the closure of all cinema halls since mid-March and suspension of movie releases indefinitely.

Independent trade analyst Sreedhar Pillai said the biggest blow comes from the deferment of Vijay’s action thriller Master, that was supposed to follow the actor’s string of hits, his last film Bigil, had made close to Rs. 300 crore worldwide, while the ones before that, Sarkar (2018) and Mersal (2017) had also crossed 250 crore. Despite the obvious disadvantage of a restricted market, Vijay who has only seen two of his 14 films flop since 2010, has a track record that reads much better than several Bollywood and even Tamil movie heroes. Trade experts say the figures of his films have even surpassed those of erstwhile superstar Rajinikanth in Chennai.

“We were really looking forward to the summer season this year as it tends to contribute nearly 30% of the overall business," said Rakesh Gowthaman, managing director of Vettri Theatres in Chennai, adding that the first quarter of 2020 had been disappointing as Rajinikanth-starrer Darbar, for the big Pongal release in January, ended up as a colossal flop with collections of 250 crore when made on a budget of 200 crore.

With no revenues in hand as of now, Gowthaman is incurring losses of about 5-7 lakh per month as he pays staff and takes care of other fixed expenses. Apart from the Tamil language releases, exhibitors like him in the state were anticipating good tidings from the release of Hollywood spectacles such as Black Widow and Fast and Furious 9 and Bollywood sports drama ’83.

The lockdown followed a fairly tepid 2019 for the Tamil box office where star vehicles like Suriya’s NGK, Sivakarthikeyan’s Mr Local, Vishal’s Ayogya and Vijay Sethupathi’s Sindhubaadh, failed to draw crowds. Another bunch of films such as Peranbu, Sarvam Thaala Mayam, To Let, Super Deluxe and House Owner found critical acclaim and niche audiences in multiplexes but little commercial success especially in tier-two and tier-three markets.

Pillai points out that the future seems bleak even when operations resume. Not only would artistes fear for their safety when shooting in crowds, theatre logistics would also be a challenge—to practise social distancing, only half of the seats can be allotted to viewers, the number of shows per day will also be reduced if you need time to clean up between screenings.

“It’s pretty clear that malls and theatres will be among the last to open," Gowthaman said. “Also, people have gotten so used to streaming content sitting at home all these days. Everything is really vague right now."

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