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Getting niche films to audience: The Esappattukkari case

Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan’s film Esappattukkari will try to avoid the structural barriers that prevent films outside of the popular norm of production and distribution from being exhibited. Todi, directed by the classical music “superstar” is using an interesting strategy of attracting its niche audience by a) providing a space for target audience to watch a specialised film; b) expanding the market for the film by erasing references to its minority authorship, and c) providing an important motivator, i.e., pricing. To put it in plain language, the producers Sri Purna Vidya Productions will book theatres for special screenings and set ticket prices at Rs 10 (22 cents or 11p).

This blog has been proposing such strategies for some time now. This is an interesting move that should be watched closely by documentary and small-budget filmmakers. The filmmaker and producers are doing many things right. By making references to popular cinema, the producers give the wider audience a frame to consider the film. And when the ticket is priced at Rs 10 it may just be the carrot they need to troop into the theatres. If the film is good, the word of mouth might get the film critical mass.

However, the entire strategy hinges on two critical issues: a) promotion, which will get the word out about the film; b) the ability on the part of the producers to hold out before the critical mass develops. After all, the gamble of renting out the theatre has to be paid for. It might require support from mass media to sustain the project before the producers bleed themselves.

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