In April this year, just a week before the results of the Kerala assembly elections were expected, the government announced a set of curbs to control the increasing Covid-19 cases in the State. These restrictions prohibited all social, political, cultural and religious events in addition to an immediate closure of movie theatres, malls, gymnasiums, clubs and sports facilities from the 27th of April. The last few theatrical releases, all of which had to cut short its run, included critically-acclaimed films like Chathur Mukham and Nayattu, apart from Nizhal and Kho Kho.
Among the immediate casualties of these restrictions were two big-budget Malayalam films that had announced their theatrical release for May. The 13th of May was scheduled to be the release date of Priyadarshan’s Mohanlal-starrer Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham and Fahadh Faasil’s Malik—both films the industry hoped would revive the theatrical business. With this closure, release of both films got pushed, with the team of Malik finally opting for a direct OTT release on July 15. Other films that had prepared for a theatrical release too took the OTT route with Prithviraj’s Cold Case also releasing on Amazon Prime Video in June.
Another disappointment was when Basil Joseph’s Minnal Murali—touted to be Malayalam cinema’s first superhero movie—decided to go to Netflix for a release, denying the theatres of another promising commercial film. What would have further hurt the State’s exhibitors was the talk of Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham too going the OTT way, although its director Priyadarshan was quick to dismiss these as rumours stating that his film “could only be enjoyed on the big screen”. Being promoted as the most expensive Malayalam film ever made, the Mohanlal film needs a worldwide release to recoup its cost. It is also a film that could single-handedly bring back the glory days of the theatres, with a little help from other star films like Dulquer Salmaan’s Kurup.
With theatres finally getting the nod to reopen starting today, the 25th of October, there’s finally something for industry insiders and movie fans to cheer about. As reports suggest, as many as 700 screens across the State are set to reopen today after a gap of nearly 180 days. In Kochi, theatres will start by screening the latest James Bond film No Time To Die, apart from Marvel’s Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings—both films that were released weeks ago. Tamil film Doctor will get a release soon apart from Joju George’s film Star, which could release this Friday.
The reopening comes with a set of restrictions, which includes a maximum of 50 percent seating capacity inside screens apart from entry being limited to only those who have been administered both doses of the Covid vaccine.
According to a report in The Hindu, film bodies have put forward a set of requests to the State government to ensure their sustainability, including the relaxation of the aforementioned rules. Foremost is the relaxation of the vaccination norm, apart from a return to 100 percent capacity. The bodies have also asked for a service charge to be included in the ticket price to be able offset increasing expenses due to cost intensive sanitising procedures after each show. Theatres in Tamil Nadu had recently allowed a return to 100 percent capacity from the start of August, although theatres in the State have been open for more than a month.
Despite the reopening announcement , not many major films have lined up with a release apart from Dulquer Salmaan’s Kurup on November 12. Ironically, Disney+ Hotstar announced its entry into the state with a direct OTT release of Nivin Pauly’s Kanakam Kaamini Kalaham on the same day. Most producers are said to be waiting to go forward with their respective releases only after seeing the box office performance of Dulquer’s crime drama, apart from Rajinikanth’s Annaatthe, which could get a wide release across the State a week earlier. The next two weeks will prove to be crucial for the industry, with several films waiting in line for release.
The lineup for a theatrical release now includes Mohanlal’s Aarattu, Suresh Gopi’s Kaaval, Nivin Pauly’s Thuramukham, Hridayam, apart from several smaller productions. Mohanlal’s Bro Daddy and 12th Man have confirmed a direct to OTT release. The last major OTT release was Prithviraj’s Bhramam, which came out on Amazon Prime Video earlier this month.