A day after the ‘Adipurush’ teaser was launched at a grand event in Tirupati, and garnered over 109 million views on YouTube in 24 hours, and the producers of ‘Karthikeya 2’ announced that they will give away 10,000 tickets for free in Telangana, the distribution of the Rs 500 crore pan-India film in the Telugu-speaking states has hit a speedbreaker.
A major distributor, Dil Raju, has backed out of picking up the rights for the Telugu version of the Prabhas and Kriti Sanon-starrer in what is known as the Hyderabad and Uttarandhra regions in the film trade jargon (the latter including major centres such as Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram and Srikakulam).
This setback comes within a day after it was reported by the trade media that the OTT rights for ‘Adipurush’ have been sold to an unconfirmed platform (Amazon Prime Video is the punters’ favourite) for Rs 250 crore.
According to Track Tollywood, People Media Factory (PMF), which operates out of Seattle and Hyderabad, has picked up the “wholesale rights” of the Telugu version for Rs 170 crore. It has sold the Nizam Zone to Mythri Movie Makers for Rs 50 crore. Six territories of Andhra Pradesh have been bought for Rs 50 crore, while the Ceded Districts (Kurnool, Kadapa, Chittoor and Anantapur) have gone for Rs 17.50 crore.
That leaves the People Media Factory with a hole of Rs 52.50 crore and Dil Raju is refusing to bite the bait. Does that reflect on Prabhas’s star standing, which hasn’t seen much of a reiteration after the two ‘Baahubali’ films?
Film trade analyst Karan Taurani of Elara Capital said that it has more to do with the present state of the South Indian market, which has had quite an unexceptional first half in 2023 after the box-office mega successes of ‘RRR’, ‘KGF 2’, ‘Ponniyin Selvan-1’, ‘Vikram’ and ‘Kantara’ last year.
In the Telugu market especially in the recent months, another Prabhas-starrer ‘Radhe Shyam’ and the Samantha Ruth Prabhu film ‘Shaakuntalam’ are among the films that have turned out to be commercial duds, despite the hype accompanying their release. Even the Nani-starrer ‘Dasara’, which is at No. 13 on IMDb’s list of the 25 top-grossing movies of January-June 2023, hasn’t made the kind of money that an ‘RRR’ or a ‘Pushpa: The Rise’ raked in.
Taurani red-flagged a development that is still not being much spoken about. “South Indian content has been facing serious trouble in the last six months,” he said. “The occupancy in theatres is down by 25 to 30 per cent, compared with pre-Covid levels. If the footfalls don’t come, films won’t be able to recover their cost. That explains why distributors are playing it very safe.”
The Adipurush makers, however, can rest easy, for they have recovered most of their production costs from the OTT deal and the sale to People Media Factory.
Talking about the reported OTT deal, Taurani said: “OTT contracts are generally pre-sold and it’s not easy to breach those contracts in the event of a poor performance of a film.”
He, however, added a caveat. “Having said that, there could be a clause in the streaming deal with regards to the theatrical performance of a film, subject to how the producers and streamers have locked the deal. In such cases the streamers say that only when the film reaches a certain threshold in theatres, the overflow or a certain amount of money can be given to producers.”
Specifically on ‘Adipurush’, Taurani predicted: “The opening will be phenomenal but sustaining it might be a problem.”