Changes in the release date hit exhibitors and producers in Tamil cinema

Kollywood is grappling with release dates. Cinema has taken a backseat with cricket, elections, and heat waves taking centre stage.

ByS Subhakeerthana

Published May 10, 2024 | 10:30 AMUpdatedMay 10, 2024 | 10:30 AM

Changes in release dates of Tamil films hit distributors and exhibitors

Inga Naan Thaan Kingu, featuring Santhanam in the lead role, was scheduled to be released along with Star and Rasavathi on 10 May. However, it has been pushed to 17 May.

Many Tamil films with modest and medium budgets have had their release dates rescheduled in recent months, including big ones; Kamal Haasan’s Indian 2 and Vikram’s Thangalaan.

Exhibitors who plan their schedules have found this challenging.

For the time being, the Lok Sabha elections and the results greatly impact the release schedules. Otherwise, though, why isn’t Kollywood able to release movies on the scheduled dates?

Trade analysts noted that delays are typical in the Southern film industries because independent producers, who frequently bankroll films, keep prints from being released until their debts are paid.

Furthermore, if the films’ OTT rights remain unsold, delays could happen. This forces producers to hold off from going to theatres until the deals are finalised.

Leading streaming providers are solely interested in obtaining blockbuster films, meaning that alternative or lower-budget films are being passed up.

Money, honey!

Inga Naan Thaan Kingu-Santhanam

Santhanam in ‘Inga Naan Thaan Kingu’. (Supplied)

Last-minute financial troubles are not unusual in Kollywood; they have been happening for years.

A saleable hero’s pay now makes up nearly half of a film’s overall budget. And, the budget usually blows up, leaving the film behind schedule when it opens.

When a film bombs at the box office, the producer finds himself in a difficult financial situation. Even if he manages to make his next film by the time it opens, his previous financial mismanagement catches up with him and puts him in a spot.

Individual producers find it difficult to make money, while the majority of large distributors in the market today are in agreement with major studios and release films, according to their conditions.

The rights sale procedure also involves a large level of dishonesty, which leads to the selling of the same rights (digital, satellite, or international) to two different parties, who later sue the producer in court after the rights are released.

A Chennai-based distributor tells South First that without digital sales in place, a film won’t be released in theatres these days.

“One of the biggest concerns for Tamil producers is the frequent shuffling of release dates of films. Getting their films in front of audiences is more crucial than hoping for box office success. Things are challenging even at their most basic,” he points out.

Also Read: Earning the trust of my audience has been a long process, says Kavin

What’s with the delayed releases in Tamil?

A still from Vikram's Dhruva Natchathiram

A still from Vikram’s ‘Dhruva Natchathiram’. (Supplied))

Interestingly, Hollywood studios schedule their films in advance and strictly adhere to those dates. Bollywood films are not as meticulously planned or released as English films, but they are also not sloppy like those in the South.

A film tracker tells South First, “Compared to five years ago, there has been a significant increase in the percentage of Tamil films released each year. Therefore, to generate as much buzz and anticipation as possible around their new projects, the production houses are informing people far in advance about them.”

But again, after a pause, he adds, “When a lot of films come out at once, people don’t care. Many of these are unable to sell their satellite rights because there is little knowledge of them.”

Making preparations ahead of time ensures a strong opening week and helps to establish a schedule for the film’s completion by preventing conflicts with other releases.

Does a film’s release date matter anymore?

A big yes! The beginning of the year, ideally, is seen as a much quieter time at the box office than, say, the summer blockbuster season.

When a film, is released during a slower month, there is less competition.

By planning the distribution strategy ahead of time and determining the date, studios may determine which weekend has the most potential of being a successful opening weekend for their film, adds the tracker, citing Kavin’s Star as an example.

The tracker states that the opportunity, in this case, is the producer’s capacity to establish the film’s brand among viewers whose interest in it gradually increases.

A Chennai-based theatre owner concurs. “It all comes down to the noise you create through press meets, interviews, social media, posters, and advertisements. If the public is aware that so and so’s film is coming out, then half the headache is gone.”

Nevertheless, one of the barriers is the audience’s short attention span, which makes it challenging to generate engaging buzz about the film, until its release date.

A producer that South First spoke with agrees. “It is usually a good idea to minimise promotions and open the films in theatres as soon as possible.”

Second, it is challenging to rope in stars for promotions because they are often filming for new projects; this in turn affects the release date.

Also Read: These films speak volumes about Sai Pallavi’s versatility as an actor

When films don’t release as scheduled…

India has an advantage over other international markets because it has more festive weekends than those other countries, which essentially just have Christmas and Independence Day holidays.

India celebrates a wide range of holidays, including Republic Day, Independence Day, Tamil New Year Day, May Day, Holi, Vinayaka Chaturthi, Aayutha Pooja, Diwali, Pongal, Eid, Christmas, and so on.

The aim is to make the most of the opening weekend, which can account for between 40 and 45 per cent of a film’s lifetime revenue as well as the additional revenue that a holiday weekend can provide.

Who decides the release date?

Vikram in Thangalaan

Vikram in ‘Thangalaan’. (Supplied)

The producer and renowned names play a part, but the distribution company’s influence is what makes the real difference.

While production houses still want to release their major festival holiday weekends filled with well-known stars (like Rajinikanth, Thalapathy Vijay, Kamal Haasan, and Ajith), new and up-and-coming talent is also starting to get traction for releases at this time of year.

Depending on star films alone isn’t a good sign for the industry. A film like Love Today (2022) did extremely well and doesn’t feature stars. We ought to have such films performing well in theatres, adds a producer.

To make sure films do well at the box office, the makers should set their release date well in advance.

A bunch of Tamil films that declared their summer release have not yet revealed their official dates and are probably going to wait until the last minute to do so.

Given that April, May, and June are school holidays in Tamil Nadu, these are thought to be the best months for film releases, here.

Why no big releases this summer?

Rajini 85 ft cut out at cleopatra theatre tuticorin Twitter

Rajinikanth’s 85-ft cut-out at the Cleopatra Theatre in Tuticorin. (X)

For the first time, there aren’t any new superstar releases during the summer in Tamil cinema history.

Cinema has taken a backseat with cricket, elections, and heat waves taking centre stage.

Thanks to the pan-India fever, the majority of star-studded Tamil films being produced nowadays require multilingual marketing and dubbing in addition to elaborate visual effects.

Sometimes, it is simple to underestimate timings before realising that post-production may take longer than anticipated, observes a writer-producer working in Tamil cinema.

The number of major Tamil films has forced production firms to reconsider their release dates. Ultimately, the more films vying for attention at the box office, the less money each one is likely to make.

How will you choose which of the three to four films coming out in a week to watch? Of course, you’ll choose the one with the highest rating or read the reviews. This would imply that the producer is constantly searching for potential stars.

Will the second half of Tamil cinema fare any better as it continues to face the biggest box office test? The best thing to do is to wait and see. We hope that releases don’t eat up each other’s collections.

Also Read: No ‘star’ films releasing this festive season at Tamil box office