The Tamil Nadu theatres, that were allowed to reopen from August 23, received only a lukewarm response from moviegoers during the first weekend. Theatre owners in the state are now awaiting the release of new Tamil films, which they hope will revive the big screens.
While the state government had granted permission for cinema halls to function from August 23 at 50% capacity, post a hiatus of four months, a number of theatre owners chose to wait until the weekend to resume operations. In the absence of Tamil releases, films such as Conjuring 3 and the Telugu film Sridevi Soda Center were screened in the first week.
To understand how the first weekend went and the outlook for the box office, Silverscreen India spoke to theatre owners in Tamil Nadu and here is what they had to say.
Venkatesh, owner of Woodlands Cinemas, Chennai, who opened his premises on Friday, said, “Conjuring 3 is already available on the Internet, while Sridevi Soda Center does not have a star cast. So the turnout hasn’t been great so far. We just ran the theatres for the sake of running it.”
Rakesh Gowthaman of Vetri Cinemas in Chennai was in agreement with Venkatesh. “Since Conjuring 3 is an old film, we were aware that it would not have a grand opening. But we did get a decent number of visitors who came for the sake of having that theatrical experience after a long time,” said Rakesh, who chose to keep the balcony closed in his 700-seat premises and opened about 150 seats, out of which 100 were occupied. He mentioned that both family and young audience visited his theatre.
Rakesh also added that they expect things to change in the coming weeks. “In September first week, we have the premiere of Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and we will also screen Fast and Furious 9. Though the latter may not have a big reception since it has already released globally, we are expecting Shang-Chi to drawn in the crowds,” he said.
However, what theatre owners are really pinning their hopes on are the new Tamil films that are due to release for Vinayaka Chaturti in September.
Upcoming Tamil films include Vijay Sethupathi-starrer Laabam and Thalaivii, the Jayalalitha biopic headlined by Kangana Ranaut, which are set to release on September 9 and 10, respectively. Rajinikanth’s Annaatthe, meanwhile, is set for a Diwali release on November 4.
Theatre owners in Tamil Nadu believe these new releases will draw the audience to theatres in good numbers.
“These are the actual Tamil films, while those we are currently screening are either dubbed or in English or other languages. English films will perform only in urban pockets, like Chennai and Coimbatore. Theatres in other regions will have to wait for Tamil film releases,” said Rakesh.
This is confirmed by Dilip Kumar of Malayandi Cinemas (a single screen with 456 seats) in Usilampatti, Madurai, who has not opened since April. “If we run English films, we will sell 6-8 tickets maybe. We can’t pay electricity charges and wages with collections like that. So, we are planning to open on September 9 with the new Tamil releases,” he said.
Dilip also added that just as Master provided a boost to the box office when theatres reopened following the first pandemic-induced shutdown, he expects Valimai and Annaatthe to do the same this time around.
Rakesh concurred. “Even Thalaivii and Laabam should bring people to theatres, like Karnan did earlier. But when Valimai and Annaatthe are released, there is no doubt that people will throng theatres again,” he said.