Box office earnings have gone south for Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam films following the Centre’s demonetisation move and producers are being forced to defer releases amid poor audience turnout trends, according to industry insiders.
The Telugu film industry, the biggest producer of films in the country after the Hindi film industry, is feeling the cash crunch, and the release of at least three films -- Intlo Deyyam-Nakem Bhayam, Okkadocchadu and Remo - has been postponed.
“Another film, Dhruva, starring megastar and Congress MP K Chiranjeevi’s son, Ram Charan Teja, is set for release on December 2, but it may get postponed if the cash crunch continues another week,” BA Raju, who looks after media relations for several production houses in the Telugu film industry, told HT.
The Telugu film industry has an annual turnover of around Rs 1,000-1,200 crore and sees the release of 130-150 films, including dubbed ones, on an average every year. “Nearly 60 per cent of the revenue comes from big films and five to six such films are produced every year,” said Raju.
The industry fears that if currency issues are not resolved by the end of the year, they may cast a shadow on the release of two big budget films -- Khaidi No. 150, the 150th film of Chiranjeevi, who is making a re-entry into the industry after a gap of nearly 10 years, and Gautami Putra Satakarni, the 100th film of Nandamuri Balakrishna, son of legendary actor NT Rama Rao. Both are slated for release on January 14, on the occasion of Sankranti festival.
Most film theatres in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are seeing poor audience turnout. Footfalls are marginally higher in theatres across urban centres such as Hyderabad, Vijayawada and Visakhapatnam owing to online ticket sales, but in smaller towns and rural areas - referred to as B and C centres in film parlance - the turnout is less than 20 per cent, according to industry insiders.
Filmmaker Madhura Sridhar Reddy said the demonetisation move had hit big budget films more. “Buyers have to invest huge amounts to purchase the rights of big films. They recover most of their investments in the first couple of weeks of the release and if there are no audiences, they are doomed.”
Producer Dasari Danaiah said the demonetisation move shook the film industry initially, but shoots had resumed in the last couple of days. “The only problem is when to release the films. Since the audience turnout is poor, there is no point in releasing films at this stage.”
Tamil film industry takes a hit
The Tamil film industry took a hit after the demonetisation move last week, seeing three fresh releases sink without a trace. Several film shoots, mostly those of smaller producers, have come to a halt. Only big production houses are carrying on with their shooting schedules after an understanding with their workers, said actor-producer Cable Shankar.
Several films scheduled for release this week (November 18) have been put off by a few weeks. Release of at least 10 Tamil films has been postponed due to cash crunch that filmgoers are experiencing.
Shaitan, a Vijay Antony starrer, was to open on November 18, but has been put off to December 2. The release of Kadavul Irukan Kumaru too has been deferred. Vijay starrer Katti Chandai, which was slated for release this week, too was postponed for an opening in December.
Shoots held up in Malayalam film industry
Several film shoots have been stopped temporarily and many theatres in Kerala are planning to down shutters due to non-availability of low denomination notes.
Work on national award-winning director Sidharth Siva’s latest movie Sakavu starring Nivin Pauly has been postponed. A day’s shoot costs between Rs 4-5 lakh, according to industry sources.
“For the latest Dileep starrer, we have around 150 people on the set. We are finding it difficult to serve food to these many people,” said Dickson, production controller of the movie.
An official of the Kerala Cine Exhibitors Association said, “In the last one week, about 60 per cent of our revenue has gone down. If this situation continues, we will have no option but to close down our theatres.”