How to revive the Malayalam film industry?

Kerala is a film loving state, it was the only state in India where one could see Baahubali in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam. It has film societies and a film festival which is better than IFFI and on par with MAMI, yet the Malayalam film industry continues to struggle.Kerala is a state where Hollywood movies, Tamil, Bollywood and even Telugu films are accepted. It is a state where rickshaw drivers will discuss Fellini with you, yet somehow the business of Malayalam movies has not grown to it’s potential.Here in this post I have tried to identify the pain areasand tried to give a few solutions for the same. My three areas of focus are exhibition,distribution of content and promotion of content.

How to revive the Malayalam Film IndustryTheatres– Kerala had around 1015 Single screens at the start of 90’s making it ahead of many states in India, by 2013 the number has been reduced to 515 screens. The major problem here is theatres in Kerala have to be right sized, you cannot have 1000 seaters with 4 shows and expect people come to theatres.

The first thing is theatres in Kerala need to be right sized, which means to have theatre halls with not more than 300 capacity. Secondly one has to upgrade the seats, I was surprised that a so called A class theatre had seats which reminded me of the 90’s for the sort of seats which does not have cushion, does not recline and more than the screen you get to see the heads of people who have come to watch the movie.

And then comes up gradation of canteen, most theatres in Kerala do not offer good options to eat, all you have is candy and stale popcorn. Theatre owners need to realise that multiplexes across globe earn 70% of their revenue from F&B. They need to upsell and cross sell these at ticket counters along with option that it will be directly delivered to his or her seat.

Fourth would be booking, I was surprised that most theatre owners do not have online booking, neither they allow advance booking in counter. In order to book ticket, a consumer has to stand in line which is more or less like cage, it is as if theatre owners do not want consumer to buy tickets in comfort. Make it simple, ensure that tickets can booked via third party site or apps, ensure that advance booking is open to consumers more than 12 hours before at the theatres.

Fifth thing is related to show timings, remember the old times when a movie used to run for 4 shows and people used to often witness house full signboards? The bad news is that people do not have patience to wait for it, people now do not work for 9 to 5. So why are theatre owners still showing movies at the old archaic timings,they should go for dynamic show times, have more shows during weekends, also preferably even if you are a single screen do not just screen one movie each week, show two movies on daily basis and try to attract more patrons. The good old day of movie watching with family is over, more the variety you offer, better chances of more patrons thronging your cinema halls.

Last but the most important, theatre owners have to adopt surge pricing like multiplexes, in order to cash in on film’s popularity.

Release Date– When it comes to release date, only Bollywood sticks to schedule. In Malayalam film industry there is no concept of release gap. Most of the times we see a same actor’s movie releasing on same day e.g. Nivin Pauly’s Ivide and Premam was released on the same day. While Premam went on to become blockbuster, Ivide could not find its audience. Granted Ivide was a niche film, but if the film was released after Premam, the film could have got a larger audience. Festival releases are important for every film industry as it boosts the revenue by 30%.

Kerala has Vishu, Onam, Eid, Dassera, Christmas and May Day which are major festivals. Now the problem with Vishu is that during Vishu Tamil Nadu also celebrates its new year and Malayalam films have to jostle for space with Tamil films.

Above all more than 4 movies were released this Vishu, 5 movies were released during Onam. Out of this total 3 movies, 2 movies featured Mohanlal (Ennum Eppozhum, Lailaa O Lailaa and Loham: The Yellow Metal) and 2 movies featured Mammootty. Nothing wrong if superstars wish to release movie during festival, we all love to see our stars.

The problem is this superstars also had release before Vishu and pre-Onam, the charm of festive release is the scarcity, and it is why Aamir releases his movie on Christmas, Shah Rukh Khan during Diwali and Salman Khan during Eid. Moreover even Tollywood and Bollywood ensure that at least three weeks gap is ensured between releases of Superstars, which is not the case in Malayalam industry.

Important thing to note is it is the younger crop of actors who are drawing huge initials during fest. The two M’s of Malayalam industry need to realise that maintaining gap between films is essential. In any case it is not advisable to release a half dozen film every year with same actor, the cost of ticket prices are rising and people have many options for entertainment than what they had ten years back.

Home Video Window– The home Video window till 3-4 years ago was 365 days in Malayalam film industry, it has been reduced to around 90-120 days which I feel is still high. The DVD and Blu-Ray should be released in less than 30 days, if the film is a flop and if it is a hit it should be released in less than 60 days.

Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Bahubali which were released after Premam are out on DVD and is available on DTH and satellite channel, while Premam’s satellite premiere will take place in the end of December.

India is not a market for genuine DVD or Blu-Ray buyers, but the potential for Malayalam films across Indian diaspora is huge, with Malayalees being in every part of the globe. DVD’s and Blu-Ray should be released in foreign countries where Malayalam films are not released, especially for smaller films.

It is unfortunate that proper transferring of movie is not done in Malayalam film, and consumer gets to watch a movie in a ratio which is not fit for home viewing, in this case most consumers would prefer to download movie via torrents.

Even Blu-Ray’s do not justify the cost, none of the Malayalam film offers directory commentary or even extra features like trailers. If a consumer has invested in a Blu-Ray system, it has to be assumed he is a cinema lover and would love to recreate theatre experience in his home, then why are producers charging premium yet not giving any value added service to cinema lovers.

Online Streaming– Not every Malayalam film gets the best of theatres, more than 50% of them do not get released even nationally. It is essential to reach these consumers at nominal cost, be it across India or other parts of Globe. Many people would love to watch movies legally, provided we give them comfort to choose and right price the product.  Bollywood film Vivaah did this and earned revenues.

T.V is not your Foe- Malayalam film industry seems to live in 1940’s or else what explains their knee jerk reaction towards T.V in last 15 years, some of the diktat included not showing any clips or songs from forthcoming releases, guess what happened channels started to broadcast more Tamil songs and as a result Tamil cinema’s collection increased. In recent times, some order was passed where film’s cast should not include people from T.V serials, the so called logic behind people will not pay money to watch actors who are on T.V.

We all see social media being hailed as next frontier, I agree with to an extent. T.V. still plays a major role even in developed countries like USA. Make T.V your friend, just do not do post release show, where everyone is claiming the film is a success. Ask actors to promote, tell them to appear in serials, reality shows.

Promotion-

Having a twitter account is important for any actor, but not  like Mammootty’s where all you can see is I posted this on FB, frankly I do not care, and you need to interact with fans, like the way say Shah Rukh Khan does.

 

Ensure the music of the film is released online at least 40 days prior to the release.   Kindly upload the music on available digital platforms, if pirated copies can be available easily, then why not original and legal copies. Think of OST as a promotion tool and not revenue model. Only caller tunes are the revenues which you are going to get from Music.

Why so much text in a paper advertisement?

Can anyone guess the genre of the film by looking at this?

Posters– Please stop making it as an album with photograph of every actor, decide on theme of the film, colour of the film and have only main cast of the film in posters. Posters are meant to evoke a certain emotion, it does not have to be stills of the movie with text. Remember posters are a visual medium like cinema.

Tours– If Tamil and Telugu actors can come for promotions in Kerala, then why cannnot Malayalam stars tour Kerala for starters. Let them start visiting colleges, malls to increase awareness about the movie. Keep minimum of 45 days for promotion.

I am sure if this steps are implemented, instead of Tughlaqi diktats which Malayalam industry imposes from time to time, this will lead to bigger collection and better health of Malayalam film industry.

Do share your thoughts on comments for revival of Malayalam film industry.

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