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Kannada Cinema 2024 Half Yearly Report: Sandalwood gasps for breath

Kannada Cinema 2024 Half Yearly Report: With no big-ticket releases, audiences preferred the wait and watch on OTT approach for smaller, critically-acclaimed films

Kannada Cinema 2024 Half Yearly Report: Sandalwood gasps for breath

Despite good reviews, most Kannada films in 2024 struggled at the box office, only to get views on OTT

Last Updated: 08.22 PM, Jun 29, 2024


“Audiences are not coming to theatres” – is a common refrain one hears from Kannada filmmakers, as they struggle to figure out why their films are being shunned by viewers. But then, it’s not that audiences are not coming to theatres at all, they are, just not for Kannada cinema. The success of Malayalam films like Manjummel Boys and Aavesham in Karnataka is proof that the theatre culture is still strong.

As of June 30, 125 Kannada films released in theatres, of which, perhaps a handful grabbed eyeballs and generated some business. Very many came and went - no one knew. In several cases, the film teams did not even bother with basic publicity, choosing instead to release their content in a few halls – a theatrical release being a mandate for satellite and OTT deals is the only reason behind this.

Rangayana Raghu's Shakhahaari did not break even in theatres; has 50 million streaming minutes
Rangayana Raghu's Shakhahaari did not break even in theatres; has 50 million streaming minutes

The few that generated some interest in audiences, like, Blink, Shakhahaari, Case of Kondana, Ondu Sarala Prema Kathe, etc., struggled at the box office, prompting makers to opine that had these films been made in Malayalam, they would have done phenomenally well. Post the OTT release is when most audiences saw these films and showered them with the love and recognition they deserved. Of these 125 films, a large chunk still does not have satellite or digital deals.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, several filmmakers who had managed to crack pay-per-view deals with a leading OTT platform said that despite good numbers as far as streaming minutes go, they were far from breaking even.

Industry insiders say that Sandalwood’s slump is in part due to the fact that there have been no A-list hero releases. Challenging Star Darshan’s Kaatera ended 2023 on a high, but since then, there’ve been no other major releases. Kiccha Sudeep’s Max is reportedly complete, but does not have a theatrical release date yet. The actor’s last was 2022’s Vikrant Rona. Rocking Star Yash has not been seen since 2022’s KGF: Chapter 2. His next has an April 2025 deadline. Dhruva Sarja’s much-delayed Martin is finally getting a 2024 release during Dasara, with his KD set to follow in December.


Duniya Vijay’s not been seen in Kannada cinema since Salaga. His next, Bheema will be in theatres on August 9. Rishab’s Kantara: Chapter 1 is a 2025 release, Rakshit Shetty is yet to start work on Richard Anthony and Shivarajkumar’s Bhairathi Ranagal is also delayed, with a new release date yet to be fixed.

There’s not much by way of big-ticket releases to look forward to in the rest of the year. Like the first half of the year, the second also has a few promising films lined up, headlined by actors who, by their own admission, are not marketable names and are banking on the quality of the content to bring people to theatres. The question that remains is – will people head to theatres or are they going to wait for the OTT release and then post a social media message about the regret they have in not having caught it on the big screen? Let’s wait and watch.

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