Trial run: Malyalam films to get exclusive 3-week window in theatres

By: and |
June 29, 2021 4:15 AM

The proposal has the backing of the Film Exhibitors’ United Organisation of Kerala (FEUOK), which has 350 screens in the state from a total of 650.

Atul Mohan, editor at Complete Cinema, said that Malayali Star Mohanlal commands huge popularity in Kerala and his movies have typically captured 80-85% of screen share in the state.Atul Mohan, editor at Complete Cinema, said that Malayali Star Mohanlal commands huge popularity in Kerala and his movies have typically captured 80-85% of screen share in the state.

In an attempt to bring the masses back to the theatres, stakeholders in the Malayalam film industry are toying with the idea of granting an exclusive three-week run for the Mohanlal starrer big-budget film Marakkar-Arabikkadalinte Simham. The film directed by Priyadarshan has been reportedly built on a budget of `100 crore.

The proposal has the backing of the Film Exhibitors’ United Organisation of Kerala (FEUOK), which has 350 screens in the state from a total of 650.

“When we are opening the theatres after one year, we need a big film, which has a title as well as star value and can be screened simultaneously on all the screens. Only big stars and films with huge value can bring back the crowd to the theatres,” K Vijayakumar, president at FEUOK, told FE. He added that FEUOK members have agreed to screen only Marakkar for three weeks and that the free run would be a one-off experiment.

Rajaputhra Renjith, Kerala Film Producers Association president, said that the proposal for a free run has been doing the rounds but no formal decision has been taken due to the uncertainty of opening the theatres due to the pandemic. He added that a final decision would be taken only with the concurrence of the state government. The number of Covid cases is still hovering above 10,000 in the state on a daily basis.

While all the stakeholders in the (Malayalam) industry do confirm the need to do something innovative to bring back the masses to the theatres, the exclusive period could be reduced finally to one week according to producer and director Aashiq Abu, who is planning to release one of his films right after Marakkar.

Cinemas pan-India have been struggling to stay afloat as authorities have had to impose intermittent lockdowns and restrictions to curb the spread of the virus. An estimated 1,000 to 1,500 single screens shut down last year, reducing India’s overall screen count to around 8,000, according to analysts at EY. The proposition to accord a three-week exclusive theatrical window to Marakkar, though seems palatable, will be near impossible to replicate nationally. Industry experts say that the size of the Malayalam film industry is not very significant and the movies of the region usually get a primary release only in Kerala. They fail to get a wide screening even in states like Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. “You cannot put Bollywood and Malayalam industry together. Bollywood is much bigger, almost six to ten times bigger than Malayalam cinema. India has a wide screen count and competing films have to be there to fill those screens,” said entertainment industry observer, columnist and writer Sreedhar Pillai.

Considering that Akshay Kumar-led Bell Bottom gets a July 27 release as planned, there are a host of other films waiting to get screened post that, said Pillai. Besides, for a Bollywood movie to make sizeable business, it needs to get released in the major markets of Maharashtra, Delhi-NCR and Punjab; exhibitors and producers everywhere will not agree to such an arrangement where only one movie is allowed to get premiered for a certain duration, analysts reckon. States like Maharashtra will want to screen Marathi movies and there is a strong sentiment associated with it. “There is also a line up of Hollywood movies that are expected to do good business in India. Nobody can get a monopoly. That is not possible,” added Pillai.

Atul Mohan, editor at Complete Cinema, said that Malayali Star Mohanlal commands huge popularity in Kerala and his movies have typically captured 80-85% of screen share in the state.

Even in states like Tamil Nadu and Telangana, there will be difficulty to screen only one movie at a time as the industry there is competitive and there are a spate of movies with big stars waiting to get launched, said experts.

Nikhil Narendran, partner at Trilegal, in fact, believes that the move to give an exclusive theatrical run to a particular movie can have serious legal repercussions. “This is a competition issue. This amounts to really a foreclosure and the refusal to deal with the rest of the players. There is a right ground for challenge from a legal perspective. If someone raises a complaint, it could be investigated,” Narendran said.

Interestingly, many Malayalam films are now also opting for an over-the-top (OTT) release after the success of films like Drishyam 2, Joji and The Great Indian Kitchen.

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