While the film’s revised release date has not been announced, according to Varghese’s Facebook post, the film’s makers decided to postpone the release due to the lack of second shows in Kerala. The post said that since theatres in other countries are still closed, and the number of shows in Kerala is limited, the makers decides to push the release date.
Ajagajantharam is not the first Malayalam film to postpone its release citing the lack of more shows. The makers of Mammootty-starrer The Priest also postponed the film’s release, that was scheduled to premiere on Thursday. Besides stating that theatres did not resume functioning in other countries, the makers said that the lack of second shows, which draws the family audience to theatres, was still not permitted in Kerala.
Early in January, the Kerala government allowed theatres to operate with 50% seating capacity after a hiatus of nine months. However, most of the theatres had waited for Vijay-starrer Master to release on January 13, and for relief measures to be announced, including waiving the Entertainment Tax and Fixed Electricity Charges. While neighbouring states, like Tamil Nadu, had started to function with 100% seating capacity, Kerala continued to run only limited shows with half occupancy. Cinema halls in Kerala reopened on January 13 after the government announced a relief package with limited timings from 9 am to 9 pm.
However, the timings have become concerning for theatre owners and filmmakers, as they said that the timings are inconvenient for them to screen films and fail to bring sizeable number of audience to theatres.
Speaking to Silverscreen India, K Vijayakumar, president of the Kerala Film Chamber of Commerce said, “The problem is that the producers and distributors are not ready to release the film with these show timings. Because within 9 am to 9 pm, we can only run three shows. The morning show will not have any family audience coming. Hence we had submitted a memorandum to the chief minister last week to change the show timings to 11 am to 12 pm.”
He said that though films are ready to be released, they have been postponed due to show timings. “This is a very big problem for theatres here. Nearly 60% of screens are shut down in Kerala due to this. There are no films running, what will we do?”
Vijayakumar said that a meeting with producers, distributors, and exhibitors was conducted on Wednesday regarding the issue at the Film Chamber. “We decided to make our request about the show timings again. We will be meeting the chief minister again tomorrow [Saturday],” he said.
Suresh Shenoy, the owner of Shenoys Theatre in Kochi and Film Exhibitors United Organisation of Kerala (FEUOK) treasurer, said that the choice of screening timings is unfavourable for theatre collection.
Earlier speaking to Silverscreen India, he had said, “We raised the question and the government said they will look into it. But they have not done anything so far, despite repeated visits and requests. All we ask for is a change the timings from 9 am to 9 pm and make it 11 am-11 pm or 12 pm-12 am. We can run four shows, but with current timings, we can run only three shows.”
Shenoy had said that the 9 am to 12 pm time period doesn’t draw much audience. “In Kerala, except for the multiplexes, the shows start only by around 12 pm. So effectively we can only play three shows and those constitute 45-50% of collections during the day,” Shenoy had said.
MC Bobby, the secretary of FEUOK, had said that the existing timings do not allow second shows to take place [9.30 am screenings]. “Now there are only three shows- morning, noon, and matinee. With this, only small films are releasing, the big films are postponed like Mammmooty’s film,” Bobby said.
While the show timings issue is yet to be solved, other upcoming Malayalam films that are awaiting releases include Marakkar Arabikdalinte Simham, starring Mohanlal, Nivin Pauly’s Thuramukham, and Fahadh Faasil’s Malik. All these films are slated for release on May 13 on the occasion of Eid.