How Ponniyin Selvan has broken a box-office jinx in Karnataka
PS1 was released in 92 single-screen theatres and 54 multiplexes with an average of about five shows a day
Ace director Mani Ratnam’s historical drama Ponniyin Selvan: 1 has turned out to be a blockbuster and the makers are raking in the moolah. And in Karnataka, it has managed to break the jinx with its box-office success.
Karnataka is often said to be a big territory for non-Kannada films. Big ticket films from Telugu, Tamil and Hindi film industries release their films across hundreds of screens in the state. However, many distributors of non-Kannada films in Karnataka have incurred losses to the tune of crores of rupees by distributing big-budget non-Kannada films in the state. The success of Ponniyin Selvan: 1 has come as a relief to the distributor and exhibitors in the state.
PS1 was released in 92 single-screen theatres and 54 multiplexes with an average of about five shows per day. There were nearly 700 shows for PS1 by the first weekend in Karnataka alone. Tony A. Raj, the owner of Horizon Studio, the distributor of PS1, in the state is happy.
“We have managed to collect over ₹18 crore in gross within the first week of the release. We have nearly 400 shows for the second week and the numbers will pick up again during the second weekend. Movie-goers are getting their families to watch the film and that has certainly helped the box office collection,” said Raj.
The Tamil version of PS1 has done more business than big tickets films like Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy, Saaho, Radhe Shyam and Acharya.
The Federal had reported that the Kannada dubbed version of Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy had raked in nearly ₹2.5 crore back in 2019, but the harsh reality is that Dheeraj Enterprises, the distributor incurred losses with Chiranjeevi’s film.
According to sources, the big threat to non-Kannada films is the non-cooperation among distributors in the state. Distributors bid big money for non-Kannada films and end up paying a huge price.
“We bought the Karnataka distribution rights of Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy at a price of ₹10 crore. Both the Kannada and Telugu version did well, but we were unable to recover our investment. We lost a few crores by distributing Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy,” said Dheeraj Pai of Dheeraj Enterprises.
Sources claim that big production houses offer to help non-Kannada film distributors in the state by assuring that they would make up for the losses by giving them another film from their production house. However, the competition is such that multiple distributors bid exorbitant money for these films and the distributor who had lost money is out of the race and left in the lurch.
Distributors claim that almost every non-Kannada film distributor has incurred losses by paying exorbitant amounts to big-ticket films. Some veterans in the industry have given up the business and are no longer enthusiastic to go after big-ticket films based on the hype or actors’ popularity in the state.
The success of Ponniyin Selvan: 1 is something that non-Kannada film distributors and exhibitors were waiting for, for a long time. Tony, the distributor of PS1, says he can relate to the distributors who have incurred losses as he too is one among them.
“We have also lost crores of rupees distributing non-Kannada films over the years. We could not release Uttama Villain for one-and-a-half days in Karnataka while the movie was screened everywhere else in the country back in 2015. However, things have been better for us post the pandemic. We managed to recover our investments with films like Don, Bimbisara and Vikram in 2022. We incurred losses with Cobra but we are doing well with Ponniyin Selvan: 1. It’s part of business,” said Raj.
₹10 crore for PS1 rights?
Raj reacted to the claims that non-Kannada distributors bid exorbitant amounts of money to purchase the distribution rights of a film. “Yes, distributors sometimes get excited with a film’s hype and popularity, but we must be careful while deciding the price. We do not get to watch the film before purchasing the distribution rights and there is a high risk involved when we buy these films” claims Raj.
Sources in the industry say that the distribution rights of PS1 were bought for a whopping ₹10 crore. However, Raj dismissed the claims. The distributor refused to reveal the exact price he bought the distribution rights for but said, it was for much lesser than what it is being speculated.
Industry insiders say that PS1 would have done even better if there was no competition from other films. Kannada film Kantara starring Rishab Shetty in the lead was released on the same day as PS1 and has been giving tough competition to Mani Ratnam’s film by taking over more screens with each passing day.
The success of PS1 has proved that Karnataka is a big market for non-Kannada films and it is up to the distributors to strike a better deal to turn profitable.