The Priest, the upcoming Malayalam film starring Mammootty, which was supposed to release in theatres on Thursday, will be releasing at a later date, the film’s director Jofin T Chacko announced in a social media post on Tuesday.
The Priest is Chacko’s debut directorial. He has also written the film, which is produced by Anto Joseph, Unnikrishnan B, and VN Babu. The film co-stars Manju Warrier and marks her maiden collaboration with Mammootty.
The Priest’s makers have not revealed the new release date.
In his post, Chacko said: “Since cinema halls in other countries currently remain closed and there’s still no permission to run four daily shows in theatres in Kerala, we have been forced to postpone the release of The Priest.”
“There are no second shows. The release of The Priest has been postponed from March 4,” he said.
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Chacko, in another post, thanked Mammootty and producers for their support in making the film when it was halted due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Despite going through so many crises, I was able to complete this big-budget film where Mammookka [Mammootty] and Manju Warrier came together for the first time, along with the help of the producers. The Coronavirus brought the world to a standstill at a time when 80% of the filming of Priest was completed, the rest was shot after eight months,” he wrote.
Stressing that The Priest is a film that should be watched in theatres, Chacko wrote that the film should be released worldwide on the same day. Chacko pointed out that theatres in the Middle East, including in Dubai, Saudi, Oman- where they plan to simultaneously release the film- are currently not functioning.
He said that the big-budget film would not be able to reach the family audience in Kerala.
“Only small films were released in Malayalam, the second show was expected to start from March 1 but it did not happen. Let’s wait until favorable decisions come. I am also waiting to see my first movie as a Mammookka fan in theatres that are fully active,” he wrote.
Early in January, the Kerala government allowed theatres to operate with 50% seating capacity after a hiatus of nine months. 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 9am to 9pm.
Speaking to Silverscreen India Suresh Shenoy, the owner of Shenoys Theatre in Kochi and Film Exhibitors United Organisation of Kerala treasurer, said that the choice of screening timings is unfavourable for theatre collection.
“Right now, we are able to screen only three shows, no matter the duration of the films. Our show timings have been set at 9 am to 9 pm. That is a source of concern for theatres and producers because even though it is 12 hours, the period from 9 am to 12 pm, is a waste since many do not turn up to watch films. In Kerala, except for the multiplexes, the shows start only by around 12pm. So effectively we can only play three shows and those constitute 45-50% of collections during the day,” Shenoy said.
He said that while the SOP guidelines in other states do not mention operating timings, the Kerala government has imposed certain restrictions.
“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 11am-11pm or 12pm-12am. We can run four shows, but with current timings, we can run only three shows,” he said.
The Priest is one of the first big-budget Malayalam films to release in theatres in Kerala after the Covid-19 induced lockdown.
Talking about The Priest’s announcement, Shenoy said, “The step has hit us badly. The theatre collections and morale will go down. When we expect a film to release and it does not, the entire week goes to waste. In addition, we need a big-budget film like The Priest. Master opened after several months of drought in a grand style. Similarly, we were expecting good content after Master. We screened Vellam: The Esssential Drink which barely performed well for the constraints we had, and Operation Java which also did very well after its release on February 12.”
Other upcoming Malayalam films include Marakkar Arabikdalinte Simham, starring Mohanlal, Nivin Pauly’s Thuramukham, and Fahadh Faasil’s Malik. All these films are releasing on May 13 on the occasion of Eid.