Theatre owners, distributors pin hopes on Ajith Kumar's Valimai release post-State government's new restrictions
People from the business share their take on the newly announced state regulations to curb the spread of Omicron COVID-19 cases
This year's Pongal may not be all cheerful for fans of cinema. In the wake of the increasing Omicron COVID-19 cases across the country, many states have shut down theatres to curb the spread of the virus. Additionally, there remains uncertainty regarding the release of Ajith Kumar's much-awaited release, Valimai.
Though there is no official information regarding a postponement of the film, social media is abuzz with speculations. Just today, the Tamilnadu Government announced new restrictions to curb the spread of the virus. The new regulations include a night curfew between 10 PM and 5 PM (to be implemented from tomorrow) and a complete lockdown on January 9 (Sunday) with only essential services allowed. This, of course, comes just days after it was announced that theatres across the state will function with just 50% occupancy.
Tirupur M Subramaniam, the President of Tamil Nadu Theatres and Multiplexes Owners Association, has his hopes pinned on Valimai. "Even with the occupancy regulation, a film like Valimai can do so well for the theatres. Everything now depends on the decision that Valimai producers will take. Theatres are going to run as usual," he says.
Rakesh Gowthaman, the proprietor of Vettri Theatre, feels that releasing Valimai may not be so ideal now due to the new restrictions. "The new regulations will create a huge impact. Because a lot of revenues comes with the night shows. So to function without night shows and with just 50% occupancy is a situation even producers and distributors may not prefer," he says. Rakesh adds that if Valimai gets postponed, films like Veeramae Vaagai Soodum, Naai Sekar, and Borrder will make the most out of it. "There is no pressure on the audience to watch these films, unlike the case with Valimai. Moreover, because they are small budget films, these restrictions may not affect the producers that much."
Valimai isn't the first big-star film to release amid the occupancy regulation. Last year, Vijay's Master and Dhanush's Karnan were released with the restriction, and both the films went on to perform well in the box office. However, one can't say the same for Valimai due to the night curfew, says Rakesh. "When those films were released, the number of COVID-19 cases were on the decline. It was only after a week since Karnan's release did the cases surge, leading to further restrictions. Moreover, during Master and Karnan's release, all screens had five shows per day. But now, Valimai will only get three shows due to these restrictions," he says.
What if the government decides to impose a complete lockdown? Rakesh hopes it doesn't happen, but he also shares an interesting perspective in case a lockdown is imposed. "Usually we have a dry February and March, and so, if the lockdown results in curbing the number of cases by February or March, we might hopefully have a good couple of months henceforth," he says.
As Subramaniam says, for now, all one can do hope is to wait for an announcement regarding Valimai.