‘Thalapathy’ Vijay’s Master, which hits screens tomorrow, has a greater purpose than merely helping its producers earn back their investment. It is expected to bring the crowd back to theatres.
“Master is the first big scale, potential blockbuster film releasing after the lockdown. I think if this movie really does well, a lot of producers will be encouraged to start releasing their big films. So at some level, the entire entertainment industry of this country is rooting for Master to do well and heat up the engines of the industry,” said film exhibitor Akshaye Rathi.
Film distributor Tirupur Subramaniam is also expecting a great response as Master is coming out on a festival (Pongal) and it has a huge star cast.
And if the advance booking is anything to go by, Master is off to a very good start. Earlier this week, hundreds of young Vijay fans braved the pandemic and thronged theatres in Chennai to buy tickets for Master. The visuals from various theatres showed that there was no social distancing, many were not even wearing masks, and there was zero fear of the virus. The only fear they must have had would be returning home without the tickets.
— Lokesh (@LokeshJey) January 10, 2021
“Since we are selling only half the tickets, we are all booked until Sunday,” said Rakesh, who manages Vettri Theatres in Chennai’s Chromepet. However, he is aware that he shouldn’t get his hopes up just based on the eagerness of die-hard fans to welcome Master in cinemas. Once the initial rush subsides, the family audience will come in. So Master’s sales next Monday will help the trade experts decide whether or not this film has rekindled public interest in visiting cinema halls.
People will appreciate a good film no matter what
Rakesh’s informed caution was contrasted by his conviction that the audience will come to the theatre, even during the pandemic, if the film is good. And film trade pundits across the country share the same sentiment.
“Now, the fear about the virus is declining, the spread of the virus is slowing down and the vaccination is coming. And if you give them (people) good content, they will come to theatres. The tradition of watching movies in theatres is not going to go away,” said producer and film trade analyst Girish Johar.
Master will open in close to 900 screens in Tamil Nadu alone. And the film is also set to give Vijay his biggest ever opening in other parts of the country as well. In Kerala, about 80 per cent of the 600-odd screens will screen Master. And the film has also received a good share of screens in Karnataka and Telugu states despite some competition (Ravi Teja’s Krack, Ram Pothineni’s Red).
“The response to the advance booking has been extraordinary. There are demands for extra shows. It will be the biggest opening for Vijay in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. The collection will be massive in the first four days, and all the distributors will make a profit in no time,” Vamsi Kaka, PRO of Master (Telugu) told indianexress.com.
Vamsi’s predictions about the phenomenal box office performance of Master was based on the success of Solo Brathuke So Better, which had Sai Dharam Tej in the lead. “It was the first big film in Telugu to be released during the pandemic. It released on December 25 and completed its theatrical run with a total collection of Rs 20 crore,” he said.
And Vijay is a much bigger deal now in Telugu states. His last three films — Mersal, Sarkar and Bigil — were big hits there. Vamsi believes that Vijay’s growing fanbase and the excitement about the film created by the teaser and subsequent promos are enough to draw people to the theatres.
Not enough publicity up north
But the trade experts in north Indian markets feel that Master’s publicity team did not do enough to create awareness about the film among the public.
The Hindi dubbed version of Master may do well if it receives good word of mouth in the coming days. But, trade pundits feel it will not receive a huge opening in north India owing to lack of publicity.
“The problem here is the producer is releasing the film with 50 per cent capacity in theatres. And they don’t want to spend much (on advertising). As an exhibitor/audience, I think they should have done good publicity of the film,” said Nitin Dattar, president of the Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association of India.
“They have done a half-hearted job. Otherwise, it could have done wonders,” he added.
Film exhibitor Akshaye Rathi agrees that the makers of Master should have done a better job reaching out to the public in north India. However, he is also optimistic that the reputation and familiarity that Vijay Sethupathi enjoys with north Indian film-goers would make up for the sloppy marketing.
“Some of Vijay Sethupathi’s films like Vikram Vedha and others have done really well on satellite and OTT platforms with their dubbed Hindi versions. That ensures there is a degree of familiarity that north Indian audiences have with him. With regard to Vijay, I think it was a matter of time before he was exposed substantially to the north Indian audience. And I am sure he will start getting the same degree of love and hysteria that he gets in Tamil Nadu all over the country,” said Akshaye.
He noted that despite lack of strong publicity, the advance booking in tier 1 and tier 2 cities have been very encouraging.
Approximately about 50 per cent of total screens in north India have reopened after the lockdown. Of which 80 per cent of the screens will screen Master from January 14.