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Self-release: The secret behind Ajith & Vijay's blockbusters!, ajith, vijay


3. Self-release

We have so far seen various methods of film distribution. The film industry is full of surprises and there may be chances that a film fails to be sold with any one of the sales methodologies we discussed. Typically movies which are suffering with this syndrome are small budget movies and movies of hero / cast with failed previous movie releases. The producers of such movies must sell the film to get back the invested money. Without any other go, as a final resort, the producer could approach a few big names in the distribution business, ink a deal and release through them. Else, the producer would release the movie approaching the mediators and theater owners make a deal with them and the producer would release the movie directly. This is called self-release in film industry parlance.

This is a much more difficult ordeal than producing the movie itself. Mostly the sufferers in this route are new producers without much experience. The producer would have already been through a tough time in the production phase. Again, he has to venture in to the unknown release arena like a blind man in the darkness. In many cases where the producer directly releases the film in self-release route, the mediators will rob a lot of money off the producer.

You think this is unfair? Wait! Every distributor would place one of his agents in every theater where the movie is screened. The main task of this agent is to monitor the amount of money generated out of each show and report the collection data to the distributor. At times, theater managers would craft an agreement with these agents and loot a huge chunk of ticket sales money. If cheating like this could happen to producers who are much experienced and old hands in the film industry trade, can you imagine what could happen to a novice debut producer? God only knows!

There are many cases self-released movies have hit the jackpot and earned the producer the money they never expected out of them. For illustration, the renowned distributor Sivasakthi Pandian was preparing for the release of Kadhal Kottai after his previous venture of Vanmathi, which was also an Ajith starrer. Unexpected had happened. Distributors who were about to release the movie stepped back claiming the asking price was high. Pandian, who had been releasing films only in Chengelpet area thus far, took the plunge and released Kadhal Kottai across Tamilnadu. The rest is, as they say, history. Even the mega hit Oru Thalai Ragam too was self-released by the producer himself as no distributor was coming forward to buy the film. It is said that when the film picked up later, the same distributors bought the film higher than the original asking price and redistributed.

Film release

Now, let’s say the film production is over. Also the produced movie has been sold by one of the release methodologies. So could the producer be relaxing now, taking a break before he starts his next venture? The answer is No!

A movie has to be released at the right time. This is very important. However good the movie may be, it would be suicidal to release a small budget movie or a film with new comers when a Rajini or Kamal film is also released. A good movie must do well in the box office. This is common belief. Nevertheless, public would be interested in the movies with big stars. It just comes naturally. This being the case, these poor small movies would not pull enough masses to theaters and empty seats in theaters will terminate them in a week’s time pronouncing them as a flop movie. There are many chances that this only can most probably happen.

Similarly, small movies, which are released ahead of festive times, would not generate much interest or enjoy good reception unless the movie is exceptionally good. Simple reason. At the eve of festivals, people would be occupied with activities such as buying cloths, expenditure towards festival, planning their visit to their native, etc. They would also be spending too much on these and would not really pay attention in visiting a movie hall. Big starrer movies, however, would definitely get the attention they deserve but small movies would rarely get noticed at times like this.

So, is there no successful movie, which has been released in the eve of festive season or along with big starrer movies? There is! A shining example is Kadhalukku Mariyadhai, which was released in an end of a December just ahead of Pongal festival. In fact it was only released in many screens with an UPTO agreement that it would be screened only up to Pongal festival. It went on to become a massive hit, running beyond pongal and became a silver jubilee.

Having cited UPTO let me explain what it is all about.  There are situations for theater owners that theatres may be idling in between festive seasons or big releases, without anything big to screen in theaters. The theater owner would have paid advance for a big starrer flick, which was set to release in the up coming festival. At this point of time, as a stopgap till the festival (and the big movie release), the theater owner would make an UPTO agreement with a distributor and release a movie in his theater with a condition. That is, no matter how well the UPTO movie is running, it would be screened only UPTO the festival and then would be lifted for releasing the big movie. There are times UPTO movies have run like crazy and the big releases have bit the dust. For a Diwali, then small actor Jiiva’s E was released with Ajith’s Varalaru. No one could deny the fact that out of all films of that season, E garnered the most money. I reiterate here that only movies, which are exceptionally good like this, can break the prevailing rules and become a hit.

Now, after buying a movie, how is it being screened in theaters by a distributor? How screening agreements are struck? What are practical happenings in this process? I am pretty sure much more questions are pondering in your mind about this exhibition process. Let us discuss about it in detail in the coming chapters.

[ be continued]

- Translator : Rangs

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