The Karnataka government’s decision to allow 100 per cent seating in movie theatres has come as a boon for ‘Pogaru’, the first big Kannada film released in the Covid-era.
Earlier this month, the Kannada film industry had united to convince the government to change its decision to allow only 50 per cent occupancy till February 28.
Released on February 19, ‘Pogaru’, starring Dhruva Sarja and Rashmika Mandanna, received a terrific opening and is learnt to have recovered its budget of Rs 25 crore within a week. The action-drama ran to packed houses in the first three days.
“People are coming in groups to watch the film. This is something we didn’t see when only 50 per cent occupancy was allowed,” K V Chandrashekar, president of Karnataka Film Exhibitors Association, told Showtime.
“It appears people have no fear of the pandemic as the movie has managed a great collection in the four first days,” he says.
Multiplex chains across Karnataka are impressed with the response to films like ‘Pogaru.’ “After a good first weekend, ‘Pogaru’ enjoyed 40 per cent occupancy daily. Any big film in the pe-pandemic era would have got a similar response. It has matched the first-week performance of Tamil superhit ‘Master’,” says a representative from Inox Leisure Limited.
An official from PVR Cinemas said ‘Pogaru’ and Telugu film ‘Uppenna’, with Vijay Sethupathi in a key role, have drawn large crowds since last Friday. Since its reopening in October, DRC Cinemas, Mysuru’s first ever multiplex, has witnessed the biggest crowds for ‘Pogaru’. “About 65 per cent of halls are occupied even on weekdays and that’s superb,” says an official.
Tough road ahead
Despite the thunderous opening, ‘Pogaru’ in all likelihood will be rated a hit and not a blockbuster. Because of a revenue-sharing dispute between theatre owners and producers, about 40 single screen theatres, including those in cities like Mysuru and Hubballi, have remained shut.
Theatre owners say the screen count for ‘Pogaru’ is going to drop in the coming days with only the college crowd and Dhruva Sarja fans showing sustained interest. “It would have helped ‘Pogaru’ had it attracted family audiences. But on the brighter side, if it had been released with a 50 per cent restriction on cinema halls, it would have taken four weeks even to recover its costs,” says Chandrashekar.
The spurt in Covid-19 cases in Karnataka could also have an impact on the film’s box-office collections. For now, the film is going strong in ‘B’ and ‘C’ centres and morning and matinee shows are enjoying 40 per cent occupancy in Bengaluru.
No big-ticket release in any language will compete with the Nanda Kishore-directorial next week and the controversy over some scenes in Pogaru, which a Brahmin organisation found offensive, has piqued people’s interest further.