In 2021, after the lockdown restrictions were lifted, about 45 Telugu movies were released (until March) across theatres, including blockbusters such as Krack, Uppena and Jathi Ratnalu, and Over-the-Top (OTT) platforms. While some producers chose a direct theatrical release, some opted for OTT platforms such as Amazon Prime Video or Netflix. But there is yet another option that producers are considering — a multiplex-only release for small budget Telugu movies.
Take, for example, the small budget movie Love Life and Pakodi, which was released on March 12, and has garnered a decent response. The film's producer, Madhura Sreedhar Prasad, is one of the first in the Telugu film industry to decide that the movie will not be released in single-screen theatres but only in multiplexes. According to him, this is among the few times, if not the first, that a Telugu movie has wilfully skipped a single-screen release.
Generally, for big budget movies that star actors such as Chiranjeevi, Ram Charan, Jr NTR and otlhers, area-wise distributors buy the movies much ahead of their release. However, the process is different when it comes to small budget movies. The practice is for producers to approach the area-wise distributors who then quote a price. Based on a mutual understanding between the distributor and producer, the movie will release in that particular area. If the talks fail, some producers may choose to hire a few theatres in the area and release their movies directly.
While big budget movies are taken on a rental basis, small budget movies are negotiated on a percentage basis, depending on the content of the movie. Movie producers who want a theatrical release but would like to surpass such complexities of the distribution system are opting for multiplex-only releases.
“Filmmakers always want to release their movies in theatres. The process is, however, complex when you have to release a small budget movie. Each distributor would have their own mindset and the challenge is to convince everyone. That's why I decided to opt for a multiplex-only release," says Madhura Sreedhar Reddy. Love Life and Pakodi is based on relationships.
The process to release a small budget movie in multiplexes is comparatively easy for producers. If a movie is released in a multiplex, the profit would be shared on a 50-50 basis, between the theatre and the producers. Additionally, the number of shows and screens can be decided based on a mutual agreement and the popularity of the film.
Sreedhar Reddy also says that only a limited crowd comes to single-screen theatres to watch a small budget movie with new faces. This has further reduced with the advent of OTT releases in the time of the pandemic.
While single-screens in non-metro cities usually cater to a particular fan-base that is devoted to their favourite hero's releases, the urban crowd is much more open to the content, notes the producer.
“People come to multiplexes for shopping, eating, playing, and so on. Watching movies is also one of the experiences they get it. In such conditions, we thought the probability of people coming to watch our movie is more. And thankfully, it worked. Our movie is getting a decent response from the audience,” he adds.
However, single-screen theatre owners disagree. They say that the content is the king, irrespective of the budget.
“Whether it's a small budget or a big budget film, the audience comes to single-screen theatres if the movie is good. If we observe that a small budget movie is doing very well and has good content and marketing which push the audience to the theatres, we increase the number of screens eventually. Whether it's a small movie or a big movie, all we need is an audience,” says Balgovind Raju, who runs a single-screen theatre called Sudharshan in Secunderabad.
The recent release Jathi Ratnalu, for instance, is a small budget film without big stars but the number of shows has been increased in many theatres, including single-screens, because of the response from the audience.
He believes that a movie is a product like any other and good marketing should be done so that at least a small crowd comes to the theatre when the movie is released.
“Unlike multiplexes, we don't have the luxury of playing different movies at the same time, as we run one movie within the permitted four shows. Multiplexes have more number of screens and more number of shows, and this allows them to run more number of movies,” says Balgovind.
Watch the trailer of Love Life and Pakodi here :