Multiplexes see up to 60% income share from southern movies
Top multiplex chains such as PVR, Inox and Cinepolis expect the share of southern language films to rise to 55-60% this year from 40-45% prior to the pandemic, said trade experts. Dubbed versions of popular southern language films could add ₹300-400 crore to annual Hindi box office collections, the experts said.
Surprisingly, other than big franchises like KGF and RRR, small-scale southern films like Kantara, 777 Charlie and Karthikeya 2 have also found favour in the past few months.
“Southern film contribution to overall revenues is only rising. Other than the fact that several Hindi films this year haven’t worked, we’re seeing small southern language films with negligible publicity coming out of nowhere and creating waves,” said Rajendar Singh Jyala, chief programming officer at Inox Leisure Ltd. Part of the Inox Group, the company operates 708 screens in 166 multiplexes across 74 cities.
Jyala said Kantara, an action thriller set in coastal Karnataka that released this September, has beaten blockbuster action drama KGF: Chapter 2 in its home state, registering the highest footfalls for any film ever. It is now common to see small and mid-scale southern films garner between ₹20 and ₹25 crore in Hindi-speaking markets, a trend that will only emerge stronger in the coming months, he added.
The dubbed Hindi version of Kantara had made over ₹42 crore at last count. Things have changed drastically from the time Bollywood would make up nearly 65% of the company’s overall earnings in 2019-2020, said Amit Sharma, chief executive officer at Miraj Cinemas. With Bollywood now bringing in only 35% of all revenues and Hollywood too having seen few hits in the past few months, regional cinema, especially Kannada, Tamil and Telugu are contributing 57% of all revenues for Miraj.
“While we want to remain a pan-India player, we’re looking at improving our south India penetration in order to benefit from the draw of regional cinema. Our intent is to have one-third of all seats in the five southern states by 2024,” said Sharma whose company is looking at opening new properties in Bengaluru, Chennai and parts of Kerala. Part of the Miraj Group owned by Madan Paliwal that has interests in real estate among businesses, the company operates 165 screens.
According to the September quarter earnings of PVR Ltd, regional cinema had increased its contribution from 28% in the second quarter of FY20 to 44% in the September quarter of this fiscal. Hindi cinema, on the other hand, had seen its share drop from 48% to 28%.
PVR declined to respond to queries on the growing share of regional cinema.
Even though audiences had started enjoying content in languages other than Hindi even before covid, the first big success was Allu Arjun’s Pushpa: The Rise- Part One that released last December and became a major success over a period of time, said Kunal Sawhney, chief operating officer at MovieMax Cinemas.
Cineline India Ltd, owned by the Kanakia Group with interests in real estate, has re-entered the film exhibition business by launching Movie Max, a multiplex chain brand. The company had in 2012 sold its Cinemax multiplex chain to PVR.
To be sure, not all films from the south have done well either in their home markets or Hindi-speaking belts but many large-scale films like KGF: Chapter 2, RRR, Karthikeya 2, Godfather or even those that were not high on special effects like 777 Charlie have managed good business.
“People now understand and relate to southern content, word-of-mouth spreads quick and people turn up if reviews are good, the latest example being Kantara.” Sawhney said. “For example, a few shows of Ponniyin Selvan-1 were houseful in our cinemas in cities like Mumbai, Nagpur and Ghaziabad compared to the Bollywood releases that opened to 20-30% in the same theatres that week.”