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Theatres re-open in Tamil Nadu: Exhibitors, producers and filmmakers pin hopes on Kollywood's revival

With the TN state government granting permissions for movie halls to open with 50 per cent occupancy, the industry is thrilled with the response from moviegoers on the first day of theatre re-opening 

Thinkal Menon
Aug 24, 2021
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Aranmanai 3 and Sivakumarin Sabadham 

The government of Tamil Nadu has granted permission for movie halls to open with 50 per cent occupancy from Monday and needless to say, Kollywood industry, including filmmakers, actors, producers and exhibitors, are quite excited. A slew of Tamil films are lined up for release and audience, too, are breathing a sigh of relief as theatres were shut down for four months. Industry insiders opine that they are hopeful of audience returning to theatres in good numbers like how they turned up after the first lock down last year. 

With engaging content and following proper precautions, they feel moviegoers have no option, but to visit theatres to have fun like the good old times. Kangana-starrer Thalaivi, Vijay Sethupathi-starrer Laabam and Sivakumarin Sabadham, which has Hip Hop Adhi, are some of the Tamil films that are expected to release initially. Theatre owners, directors and producers open up to OTTplay on the scenario and whether the OTT boom will stop people from going to movie halls.  

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Posters of Thalaivi and Laabam

Industry pins hopes on positive response from moviegoers

Film enthusiasts were delighted to see movie tickets booking apps and sites became active in Tamil Nadu from Monday. Bell Bottom, Parris Jeyaraj, Godzilla vs Kong are three films which are screened in various movie halls across Tamil Nadu, and they are gearing up for the release of Hollywood films The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It and The Forever Purge, Bollywood movie Chehre and Telugu films Ichata Vahanamulu Nilupa Radu and Sridevi Soda Centre

Archana Kalpathi, one of the leading multiplex owners in Chennai, took to Twitter to express happiness over two shows at her theatre in T Nagar which screened Bell Bottom, going housefull with packed family audiences on Monday. She says, "There are positive signs everywhere. We are thrilled with the response from the audience on the first day of theatre reopening after a hiatus of four months. The booking for The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is also encouraging. A 30 percent occupancy is actually good in the current scenario. More over, unlike last year, where there were hardly any content after theatre reopening post the first lock down, this time, we have many films ready for release.

The makers of Plan Panni Pannanum, Kodiyil Oruvan and Harbhajan Singh-starrer Friendship were the first ones to announce their arrival in September as soon as the government gave a nod to theatres to reopen. Producer-turned-actor J Satish Kumar, who had acted in a crucial role in Friendship, says that the film is likely to hit screens on September 10. He says, "Most probably, the film will have a theatrical release on September 10. I'm hopeful of audience returning gradually to movie halls. It's just that the family audience should be convinced about safety measures."

Badri Venkatesh, whose Plan Panni Pannanum, was supposed to release earlier this year, says he is ready with his project and that it's just a matter of a couple of weeks to officially announce the release date. He says, "Everything is ready from our side; infact, the movie has been loaded in Qube as well. The film will have a digital release in Disney+ Hotstar after a month or so post its theatrical release. Since ours is a comic caper, I hope people will have fun watching it. It's been a while since audience have enjoyed a comedy film."

Dhananjayan Govind, who has produced Vijay Antony-starrer Kodiyil Oruvan, says he is waiting for the response to the initial set of movies that are releasing to finalize the release date for his project. He says, "Thalaivi has been confirmed for a release on September 10, and looks like Laabam will also make it on the same date. These two films have good chance to attract the viewers. If there are compelling content, moviegoers will come back to theatres sooner than expected. From what I see, people, compared to first lock down, are more confident now and they won't hesitate to visit theatres." 

With several big films ready for release, will BO clashes eat into each other's business?

The likes of Rajinikanth-starrer Annaatthe, Ajith-starrer Valimai and Vikram-starrer Mahaan are expected to hit screens in October and November, and hence, the chances of a bloodbath at box office can't be ruled out. Veteran exhibitor and film distributor Tirupur Subramaniam notes that Sivakumarin Sabatham, Laabam and Aranmanai 3 are ready for release apart from around 30 other Tamil movies that are lined up for theatrical releases. But he opines there is room for worry. He says, "From what I have understood, all these projects will be out one by one with enough space for each of them."

Archana, too, believes she's hopeful of the entire industry, including the exhibitors, coming together for the producers. She notes, "Everyone will ensure that there is ample space for all films. With enough number of screens, it is possible to accommodate more than a film and show timings can be charted in such a way that every movie gets its due." 

'The OTT boom will not be a threat to theatres'

With a few movies in the recent months having premieres on various digital platforms and the announcement of a few more going the OTT way, is it right to assume that people are habituated to watching films at home? Dhananjayan disagrees by saying, There is a limit to which OTT platforms can buy movies. There aren't interesting line up of movies in Tamil with regard to digital premieres. Now, audience and producers have no choice, but to trust on theatres for entertainment." 

According to Subramaniam, post the reopening of theatres, more producers will reconsider their decision of going the OTT way. he says, "I'm told that Sivakarthikeyan-starrer Doctor, one of the much-expected films of the year, will make it to theatres, contrary to the speculation of it being premiered on a digital avenue."  

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(Clockwise from top left) Archana, J Satish Kumar, Tirupur Subramaniam, Dhananjayan, Badri Venkatesh

The looming threat from the third wave of COVID-19 on Kollywood

Health experts have issued warning of a possible third wave of COVID-19 hitting the country in October. In case it happens, will the industry go back to square one? Subramaniam says, "For now, the focus is on providing wholesome experience to cinema lovers. Why should we worry about a third wave which is anticipated later in the year?" Archana points out that there will not be a scenario where we will have zero cases. She says, "We have to learn to cope with the situation by following precautions. But in case, a third wave hits and the situation warrants us to shut down, we will be left with no option. For now, things look hopeful, thanks to the response from patrons who are aware of the dos and donts when they visit theatres."  

'The tussle between producers and theatre owners no longer exists'

Earlier this year, the Tamil Nadu Film Exhibitors Association had come up with a demand with respect to the release of films on OTT avenues. According to their rules, producers were asked to provide assurance that their respective projects will not be streamed on digital platforms before a month of their theatrical releases. However, Dhananjayan informs that Tamil Active Film Producers Association have now come to terms with Tamil Nadu Exhibitors Association regarding the release window. He says, "As per the latest agreement, small films can release on OTT platforms after four weeks of its theatrical release, medium films after five weeks of release and big films or those featuring big stars after six weeks post release in movie halls. Similarly, simultaneous release of films on OTT platforms and theatres is now close to impossible in Kollywood."

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