How the Surge in Kannada Movie Releases Is Killing Smaller Flicks
According to statistics made available by Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce (KFCC), a whopping 30 Kannada films released in 45 days this November. On 10 November alone, nine Kannada films hit the big screen. A week later, another eight were scheduled for release.
Industry experts are of the view that the surge in number of movie releases is a woeful situation for the Kannada film industry, with the smaller flicks getting no recognition. A record 159 movies have released this year and another 27 of them are due for release this December.
A trend in the rise of releases can also be observed over the years. The rate of increase between 2013 and 2016 is 46 percent. “There is no reason to be happy about this trend. It is more like a clearance sale,” says Samarth, a film promoter.
The Rationale Behind the Movie Marathon
Filmmakers and producers are viewing the releases as a record of sorts in the history of the Kannada film industry. Big releases and multi-starrers play an important role in deciding the date of release. If films have a star cast like Yash, Ganesh Ventakaraman or Punith Rajkumar, other producers prefer to not release their work on the same day.
It is a well-known fact that making a film requires a large sum of money. Hence, directors are always on the lookout for a producer who can afford to invest and take risks. The Sandalwood film fraternity believes that the spurt in number of films is also due to the new entrants who are increasingly getting involved in production. “These days, a lot of individual investors are coming forward to devote their capital towards Kannada movies. Besides, a minimum of Rs 50 to 70 lakh is sufficient to make a movie,” says Samarth.
Writer-turned-director Rohit Padaki who has made critically-acclaimed movies like Dayavittu Gamanisi and Aatagara is of the view that producers and distributors are not planning or streamlining their date of release.
The Karnataka Assembly elections are scheduled to be held early next year. This came as bad news for filmmakers. According to Samarth, “For at least a month, movies and specifically Kannada films will lose the limelight to state politics. This explains why producers are keen on releasing their work before the election fever sets in.”
Influence of Satellite Television
Until the 90s, a film was considered a hit or a flop mainly based on its box office collections. However, this has changed over the years. Kannada movies do not earn revenue from theatricals alone. A huge part of their earnings comes from satellite, audio, dubbing and home video rights.
There are many Kannada channels which operate specifically to a geographical area, run by local cable TV operators. Though popular channels like Colors Kannada, Udaya and Star Suvarna buy only the rights of big budget films, there are umpteen number of other mediums which accommodate the smaller films.
Impact of the Trend
The months of October and November saw 36 Kannada movies hitting the big screen. This has had a far-reaching repercussion in terms of economics of films. “The Kannada film industry has reported a total loss of over Rs. 50 crore in the last two months,” said Sara Govind, President, Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce.
The number of failures in the 400-crore sandalwood industry has risen with many of the movies vanishing from big screens after a week or two. The year 2012 saw a release of 106 movies, out of which at least 25 films amassed a good response from the audience. “At the outset, the trend this year is scary. The success rate of Kannada films this year has been just 8 to 10 percent,” said Arun Kumar, Partner, Santosh Theater.
Despite a good storyline and quality content, most of the smaller films with fresh faces have gone unnoticed in the last few months. “The average box office collections of especially small budget films has declined by over 50 percent this year. This can turn out to be discouraging for all newbies involved in producing films,” says Padaki.