KOCHI: Can you imagine a film released in just 10 theatres becoming a superhit? Believe it or not, that was precisely the situation in Kerala in the ‘eighties’ and even the late ‘nineties’.
Take the case of Thalavattam, one of the landmark films in Malayalam, released in 1986. It had just 12 release centres at 10 locations.
“Those days, it took almost a year to get returns,” said G P Vijayakumar of Seven Arts International which started production and distribution of Malayalam films in 1985. “There were some 14 release stations, placed mainly in the district headquarters. The limited number of release stations meant waiting for a year to close the account for a film. The case of Thalavattam was similar. It was one of the highest grossers of the year.”
The film was made on a budget of Rs 20 lakh, a fairly good amount those days, which may not be sufficient to pay a supporting actor now. During those days, a film would have travelled around 1,000 screens before ending its run.
This include covering B and C class theatres after the A class and re-run in some places. In fact, there was a category of B Plus class above the A and B classes. Accordingly, hit films would take 50 to 75 days to shift from the release centres. There were certain limitations too in shifting a film from a main centre to a nearby town while it was having a good run.
According to Vijayakumar, the increase in the number of small screens would result in the production of films without much dependency on stardom.
“You depend on the star to ensure a decent initial collection. The smaller screens will reduce this dependency and will increase the quality of content. Then, small films which may not be suitable for a big hall, could survive,” said the veteran who took the initiative to distribute films such as Meenamasathile Sooryan, Swathi Thirunal, Oridathu, Panchagni and Nakhakshathangal.
“A few more films in this list from our house are Sruthi and Theertham. Of course, we produced or distributed those films by realising it may not turn into a big hit. But we were certain we could make up for the loss from other movies.
When there is a scope for exhibiting these kinds of films, we can make films without the pressure of the box office,” he said.
However, Vijayakumar, also the president of the Kerala Film Chamber, wants to have a fixed budget to make the business safer even with the number of release stations increasing. “It will be good to get the film in the safe zone in a couple of days with maximum reach in minimum days.
I feel the budget of a film with a big star should not go above Rs 10 crore. While those with popular stars should be below Rs 7.5 crore, a film without stars should be limited to below Rs 3.5 crore. But there can be exceptions to any rule,” he said.