Here's Why Many Theatres Across South India Had Refused to Release 'Avatar 2'

Avatar The Way of Water did not release in many theatres in Tamil Nadu.

3 min read

Avatar 2: The Way of Water, the official sequel to James Cameron’s 2009 movie Avatar, has taken the box office by storm.

Grossing over ₹1500 crores worldwide on its first weekend, the Hollywood film's reception in India has been phenomenal. It entered the Rs 100 crore club just a couple of days after its release on 16 December. This is despite the fact that Avatar 2 was released in very few theatres across several South Indian states, especially Tamil Nadu.

What Prompted The Decision to Release Avatar 2 in Few Theatres in the South?

In order to understand why the film was not released in popular cinema halls in the beginning, The Quint spoke to film critics, trade analysts, theatre owners and the audience.

"Other than the national multiplex chains, theatres in Tamil Nadu didn’t screen 'Avatar 2' since the owners could not agree with the terms set by the film’s distributors. We (theatre owners) felt that the deal was not mutually beneficial. They (Disney) asked for a 70 percent share in the collections as opposed to 50 percent, which is the general practice for Hollywood movies in Tamil Nadu. A 70:30 arrangement is not a win-win situation for either party. So, a majority of the theatres in Tamil Nadu did not screen the movie".
M. Tirupur Subramaniam, TN Theatre and Multiplex Owners Association President

Are Theater Owners or Distributors at a Loss Here?

Trade analyst Sreedhar Pillai said, "It is still profitable for theatres to release a huge film like Avatar 2 with the current deal. The film will ensure huge footfall and secondly, it has been released without much competition from mainstream regional cinema. The operational costs will get covered. Hence, theatre owners are bound to give in even if they try and fail to negotiate a better deal".

However, Tirupur Subramaniam argued, "Today, where a film’s shelf life in theatres is, on an average, just two weeks, box office profits are largely determined by the first few days of its release. Having missed that first weekend, I don’t think it is rewarding to run the films despite the financial challenges".

How is the Audience Reacting?

Despite the popularity and hype around James Cameron's multi-billion-dollar project, the fact that the theatre owners across South Indian were not eager to screen Avatar 2 didn't go down well with the true-blue Hollywood fans.

"I was way too excited to watch Avatar 2. It was disappointing to know that the film was not being screened in any of the nearby theatres in my locality".
Prashanth, Chennai resident

Sreenath, who hails from Kozhikode, told The Quint, "I work in Dubai, and after 3 years I have come to Kozhikode to spend time with my family. Our first plan was to watch a good 3D film since my 5-year-old daughter loves watching them. Just when we had zeroed in on watching Avatar 2, we were very upset that the film hadn't released in many theaters in Kerala".

Chennai resident Rajesh said, "I love James Cameron. He is my favourite director, so I was very eager to see his new film the very first day itself. My friends from other cities like Mumbai and Delhi posted about how much they enjoyed Avatar 2. Even though I live in a metro city like Chennai, I had to travel for two hours to watch the movie"

"I’m an assistant director and work at a production house in Bangalore. I love to watch movies in a theatre. However, when I tried to book tickets for Avatar 2 on 16 December, I was shocked to see that a huge film like Avatar 2 was not available for everyone to watch and enjoy".
Bharath, Banglore resident

Film critic Siddarth Srinivas said, "Though the Avatar franchise is a huge phenomenon, there was an initial reluctance from the audience as the film is over three hours long. The 30% agreement, coupled with the fact that attention span of viewers has reduced considerably might have compelled theatre owners to skip Avatar 2's screenings on Day 1".

"In addition, the sequel released after 13 long years, and hence the film’s connection with its audience today has weakened slightly".
Siddarth Srinivas, Film Critic

He added, "However, after the positive reviews, many theaters have reconsidered screening the film".

After several discussions some of the theatres, including AGS Cinemas and GK Cinemas in Chennai, who had initially refrained from screening the film, have reopened bookings for Avatar 2.

Produced by Cameron and Jon Landau, the film stars Zoe Saldana, Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Cliff Curtis, Joel David Moore, CCH Pounder, Edie Falco, Jemaine Clement, and Kate Winslet.

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