Last week, theatres across Tamil Nadu heaved a sigh of relief as family audiences turned up in large numbers to watch Disney’s The Lion King. The film has surprised the trade, despite two big Tamil releases — Vikram’s Kadaram Kondan and Amala Paul’s much-hyped Aadai. The Lion King, which was released in both English and Tamil, was able to penetrate Tamil Nadu’s B and C markets and has emerged a winner.
The July 19-21 weekend was the best one for the trade, after the Pongal week from January 8 to 14, when Rajinikanth’s Petta and Ajith’s Viswasam brought in the family audiences. The summer releases in Kollywood were badly affected by several factors ranging from IPL 2019 to Parliamentary Elections. However, The Lion King, is doing well at the box office worldwide. According to trade reports, it topped the North American box-office with a record $185 million weekend opening and added another $346 million at the international market, making a grand total of $531 million in the opening weekend. As far as the Indian market is concerned, The Lion King became the third-highest grossing Hollywood film of all time (opening weekend), netting an impressive ₹54.75cr (including Hindi, English, Tamil and Telugu versions). In Tamil Nadu alone, the film grossed over ₹10.25 cr and a net of ₹7.15 cr, out of which, almost 70% has come from the Tamil version. Trade sources say that The Lion King will continue to dominate in the second week.
The success formula
What made The Lion King tower over other Tamil releases in Tamil Nadu? Firstly, Disney promoted the film aggressively, roping in local stars to lend their voices for the animated characters. Madhan Karky wrote the Tamil dialogues, which gave a local flavour to the movie. The familiar and popular ‘voice cast’ — Siddharth (Simba), Arvind Swami (Scar), Aishwarya Rajesh (Nala), dubbing artist Ravishankar (Mufasa), and comedians Singampuli (Timon), Robo Shankar (Pumbaa) and Manobala — helped in striking a chord with the audiences. And the photo-realistic imagery made it a breathtaking experience on screen.
ARK Ramasamy Raja, managing director of Ram Muthuram Cinemas in Tirunelveli, says, “The Tamil version of The Lion King has become a festival release of sorts. Ninety percent of the audiences are family, and they are enjoying it in the 3D format. We have never seen this kind of reception for a dubbed English film. Even for a Monday evening show, it was almost housefull. The film is a super hit and will run comfortably for the weeks to come.” Theatre owners and distributors across Tamil Nadu feel that the producers are not cautious when it comes to getting their film certified. Due to entertainment taxes, producers insisted on getting a ‘U’ certificate earlier. But after the GST regime, they are no longer bothered about the certification. Among the ‘U’ certified films that have done well in recent times, Viswasam and now The Lion King are striking examples. There’s still resistance to films that are rated ‘U/A’ or ‘A’. It’s important to bring in family audiences, because the more the number, it translates to box-office figures.
Meanwhile, Hollywood is likely to follow the latest trend, hoping to rope in more Kollywood stars, to cater to the respective audiences. And the crowds in theatres seem to be saying what has become the new punchline among kids — hakuna matata.