The makers of small-budget films in Tamil cinema are facing innumerable challenges.
As it is, they find it difficult to get adequate theatres to release their ventures. Getting a release date is an incredibly tough challenge for a small film, given the large number of movies that are made in Kollywood and the limited number of theatres that are available at the moment.
The space available for release shrinks even further given the fact that small films will have to steer clear of the release dates of big flicks that are backed by powerful movers and shakers in the industry.
‘Not given enough time’
During the course of his speech at the audio launch event of a small film, well-known producer K Rajan pointed out, “Small-budget films don’t hit the screens two weeks before or after the release of a big film since they are often removed from theatres without being given enough time to make an impact.”
He hastened to add: “I am not talking exact numbers here. But approximately, in the last two years, anywhere between 300 to 320 films have been made in Tamil.
If you look at the number of small films that are waiting for release, it would be anywhere around 250. Only the makers of 70 films have somehow struggled and managed to release their films, with many of them releasing their movies themselves.”
Rajan went on to make another important observation on the occasion. He said, “Even assuming that a film is made on a modest budget of anywhere between ₹ three to five crore, we have around a whopping ₹1000 crore just stagnating and waiting to enter the market in the form of small films.”
Finding theatres is just one part of the challenge for the makers of small films. They also have to see the show timings that their projects are allotted.
For instance, a small film might end up getting a good screen at a preferred location but might lose out on the time advantage as it could be given only the Noon show or the Night Show slots.
OTT plays an important role
Up until now, these have been the biggest challenges for the producers of small films. But now, one more challenge is making the release of small films in theatres more difficult.
Says a source in the know, “OTT platforms are increasingly playing a more significant role in deciding the release dates of films in theatres.”
For quite a number of producers of small films, the OTT platforms have come in as a boon as they are a valuable income source.
The OTT platforms are highly organised and demand that the makers decide well in advance on the dates their films should be released in theatres. This is to enable the OTT players to stream the films on their platforms 30 days after their theatrical release.
The platforms — which seem to be growing in size, strength and stature — plan their releases well in advance and strictly adhere to their schedules.
However, the makers of small films have a highly dynamic theatrical market to contend with.
They have to lock in a week when they think that their movie won’t have too much competition in theatres. Further, they have to hope and pray that a big film doesn’t suddenly make a last-minute change and arrive.
OTT platforms have a major say
Says a source, “For some reason, if a small film doesn’t release within the time it was mutually agreed upon, it will have to compensate the OTT platform in some form and look for an alternative date for release.”
The source noted: “The new date that the makers of small films decide will also have to be chosen by keeping the interests of the OTT platform that has bought the venture in mind.”
The source added, “For instance, a popular star’s film is being released this week. The makers of a small film too wanted to release their project this week. However, the OTT platform that has bought the OTT rights of both films dissuaded the makers of the small film to push the release of their venture to another date.”
As a result, the makers of the small film withdrew from the race and are considering either releasing it in October or post-Diwali.
“This is because the OTT platform made it clear that they cannot have two films releasing on the same date as it will mean that they will be streaming two movies simultaneously 30 days later,” the source told South First.
Undeterred by the many challenges that they face, the producers of small-budget Tamil films continue to make movies. After all, as producer Rajan pointed out, cinema exists because of them.
A producer, on the condition of anonymity, asserted, “Tamil cinema does not thrive because of the big producers or big actors. It is the small films that make the industry survive.”