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Small wonder- Cinema express

Thamizh Talkies: Small wonder

Sujatha Narayanan ponders on the ways in which small-budget-film releases can be incorporated into the Tamil film industry's publicity, promotions and distribution network

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Published: 10th September 2017

Two friends and I wanted to book tickets for a Friday evening show of Kurangu Bommai last week, based purely on hearsay and the good reviews. While one theatre in the city had only two shows for the film, which were, of course, running houseful, a multiplex in the suburbs didn't even have that film on its menu! Publicity, promotions and distribution network is important for a film, especially if it is one with an experimental cast and content. In the 80s, you had four or more films releasing only during the major festivals. Now, we see up to eight releases on any given weekend. Include English, Hindi, Malayalam and Telugu films and theatres are spoilt for choice. But the film one wishes to see somehow always remains out of reach. Has this happened to you? And if yes, have you changed your mind and booked tickets for the next available film, only because the time spent on the outing takes precedence over the film you want to see?

While Hindi cinema has evolved a way to incorporate small budget film releases into its publicity, promotions and distribution network, regional films still find it hard to find prime screens. Word of mouth and reviews garner some level of recognition but the impetus to book tickets and watch a film within three days of release still hinges on whether the film has known faces playing the leads. The number of shows for these small films (small only by production scale or cast and certainly not in content mostly) are increased only when there is a demand from the audience. Is there a scientific proven method to assess a film's performance? Do theatres have a system wherein they can get the exact number of people who want to watch a film just by the enquiries they get? If yes, is this information shared with the producer so even they know how their product (film) is faring?

Most of what they call 'business' in the South is based on conjecture. A standard market price is arrived at for the hero and director and other names such as music director, heroine and production banner get valued at a certain number. The revenue then is calculated prior to production or release. The budget is arrived at based on these postulated figures and the market of the hero determines the distribution pattern at the time of release. There is no system yet to pre-determine the price of a film based on content, or actual demand for the cast or technical crew among the audience. The day a method is arrived at, which is beyond mere approximation, is the day when a lot of calculations that get done with just mouthing some numbers against each area of distribution will be replaced with a solid, exact price-base for a film. It is this base which will give an investor/producer the firm ground on which he/she can invest their monies on, not as a bet or stake but as an investment in a product which will give assured returns.

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