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Historic year for Malayalam film industry

Historic year for Malayalam film industry
Kochi: The credit for releasing maximum number of movies this year does not go to Hindi or Tamil industries that have greatest reach all over the country; it goes to our own Malayalam film industry! Number of films released this year crossed the 150 mark for the first time in its history. Until now, 158 Malayalam films have been released this year. 

The birthplaces of Indian movie industry lags behind Malayalam in the number of releases this year with 123 releases in Hindi, 146 in Tamil, 119 in Kannada and 116 in Telugu. Malayalam film industry bids adieu to 2013 by not only setting a record in the number of movies released, but also setting a new history of records in terms of investment, number of box office hits, income and television satellite rights. This is a historical year for Malayalam movie industry.

This year has also seen the investment in movie production business in Kerala crossing Rs 300 crore. While about 20 films made good profit and found a place in the hit chart, nearly the same number of movies broke even. This year has also seen a hike of above Rs 5 crore for a movie in terms of satellite rights where movie telecast right is sold. 

With the increase in number and investment in Malayalam movies, Government also benefited from taxes collected. Although an accurate figure on this can be obtained only after the end of fiscal year, it is certain that the income for the government from movie industry has increased substantially. 

It was also a year of achievements for the Kerala State Film Development Corporation (KSFDC). In addition to settling all long outstanding liabilities of the Corporation, the number of movies produced at Chitranjali Studio in Thiruvananthapuram, under the KSFDC, reached a record figure of 36. Last year it was 30. 

KSFDC Chairman Sabu Cheriyan stated that by registering at the KSFDC, spending Rs 2 lakh for utilising the facilities of the studio, Rs 5 lakh will be provided as subsidy in production costs. Income from the refurbished theaters under the KSFDC increased by 75 per cent this year. 

The year also saw the birth of lot of new directors and producers in Malayalam cinema. Eighty-six debut directors entered and about 70 per cent of producers were also new to the industry. In the past two years, Malayalam cinema has grown a lot as an employment provider. The increase in number of cinemas naturally increased the number of working days. It also opened doors to many employment opportunities. Related businesses have also gained from this.

With the switching from ‘film’ to ‘digital’ era, considerable difference came in production costs. Average production cost of a Malayalam cinema today ranges from Rs 1.5 to 2 crore. Only one superstar movie's production cost went above 5 crores this year. Although the number of releases in Malayalam exceeds Hindi, Tamil and Telugu cinema, it comes nowhere to those industries in production cost. 

Even without big names, this year too witnessed viewers accepting new cinemas without prejudices. 

Pirated CD business also weakened as movies were telecast in TV within a few months after its release, along with its video CD release. 

The state has 74 releasing centers. Movies are also released at multiplexes at Kochi, Kozhikode and Angamaly. Even as the number of movies increased, fact is that small players find it difficult to get theatres for releases, if they do not have internal influence, especially at Kochi. They depend on B and C class theatres and multiplexes for releasing.

Indebted to TV
For the past several years, Malayalam cinema industry is indebted to TV, and not to the viewers. The first thing a cinema producer looks at now is the amount from selling telecast rights to channels. Many superstar cinemas, which turn out to be flops in theaters, survive due to satellite rights purchased in advance considering the star value of artists. This year until now, four  Malayalam films have got satellite right above Rs 5 crore. All these are superstar movies. Rates for satellite rights of most of the movies are decided at the production stage itself. 

Although movies of superstars and top directors fetch good amount as satellite rights, producers point out that there is a defiant approach towards small scale movies. Sasi Ayyanchira, Producers’ Association Secretary, pointed out that 45 cinemas have not got satellite rights until now. 

About 50 per cent of the prefixed satellite rate is received at the production stage itself. This plays an important role in production investment. Balance amount is also received before the release of the movie. When some superstar movies, bought for very high rates, become flops, some adjustments were made in the rates. Though the satellite rights of some movies are sold even for Rs 20 lakh, the average rate for Malayalam movies goes above Rs 1 crore. The truth is that movies that collect more revenue from theatres, than the satellite rights which is fixed purely on speculation, are very few.