Stakeholders in the Malayalam film industry are toying with the notion of giving the Mohanlal-starrer big-budget film Marakkar-Arabikkadalinte Simham an exclusive three-week run in an attempt to get moviegoers back to the theatres. Priyadarshan’s film is said to have cost Rs 100 crore to produce.
The Film Exhibitors’ United Organisation of Kerala (FEUOK), which has 350 screens out of a total of 650 in the state, supports the plan.
K Vijayakumar, president at FEUOK, told FE”, 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.” FEUOK members have agreed to screen only Marakkar for three weeks, and the free run will be a one-time experiment, according to him.
The notion for a free run has been circulating, but no formal decision has been made due to the uncertainty of opening theatres due to the epidemic, according to Kerala Film Producers Association president Rajaputhra Renjith. He went on to say that a final decision would only be made with the state government’s approval. In the statistics, the number of Covid cases is still hovering around 10,000.
While all partners in the (Malayalam) industry agree that something new is needed to entice audiences back to the theatres, producer and director Aashiq Abu, who is intending to release one of his films straight after Marakkar, believes the exclusivity time might be cut to one week.
The proposal to give Marakkar a three-week exclusive theatrical window, while appealing, will be difficult to reproduce nationally. According to industry experts, the Malayalam film industry is not very large, and the region’s films are usually only released in Kerala as a first release. Even in areas like Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, they are unable to obtain widespread screening.
Entertainment industry observer, columnist and writer Sreedhar Pillai said, “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.”
“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.
According to Atul Mohan, editor at Complete Cinema, Malayali Star Mohanlal enjoys enormous popularity in Kerala, with his films capturing 80-85 percent of the state’s screen share.
Even in areas like Tamil Nadu and Telangana, screening only one film at a time will be challenging because the business is competitive and there are a slate of films with major stars awaiting release.
Nikhil Narendran, partner at Trilegal said, “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.”