Beyond Review Bombing: The Impact of ‘Release Bombing’ on the Film Industry

As I write this article, there is this news about “Review Bombing” out there where filmmakers, producers, and one particular media handle are vehemently saying that YouTube reviews that come right after the movie’s release are the cause of the humongous crisis the industry is facing right now.

Is that so?

The particular media house has put out a list of movies that were affected by bad reviews at the box office, claiming that it is a list they got from the producers’ association. The funny thing about that list is if you have seen half of the movies mentioned in that list, someone with common sense would definitely agree to the fact that they deserved to be tanked. Priyadarshan himself had said that, ultimately, Marakkar was not a great film.

So what is the crisis?

There used to be a time in the industry when movies used to get table profits because of the various rights. The producer will get a certain amount through satellite, music, etc., before the film’s release, and even if the movie performs poorly or moderately, he won’t lose much money as there will be a guaranteed steady audience for every movie. So it was like a business model where if the producer invests X amount for a film, he will somehow recover at least that money unless the movie becomes a total washout with a budget it couldn’t afford.

But after the pandemic, this safety net of pre-release business had hit a roadblock. With the entry of OTT giants into the market, theatrical performance became a very crucial factor.

The reluctance of the audience

It is no secret that people are not going to the theaters as frequently as they used to. As someone who has been going to theaters every weekend multiple times for over 13 years now, I feel two reasons made the audience picky.

The first one is that theaters are no longer an affordable place to watch a movie.

Calicut, the city from where I watch the movies, has one theater that offers Rs 100 tickets, and almost every other screen charges from Rs 150 to 260 per ticket. As far as I know, the rates are similar or way higher in other cities. So imagine a 4 member family watching a movie on a Sunday. The ticket cost alone will be around Rs 1000. If you grab some bites during the film, that will also be expensive. Above this, the fuel expenses, parking fees, reservation charges, and most importantly, the time and effort to catch that movie are all considered when they evaluate the movie-going experience. So, if a family watches a trashy film after spending all this time and money, will they be willing to invest the same for another movie? If you invested in something and the investment gave you losses, wouldn’t you consult with others a thousand times before repeating the same deed?

Reviewers are becoming essential companions for the viewer because of the past bad experiences of watching poor-quality films. If you make movies that aren’t scams and the viewer can at least see the earnest effort on the screen, then no reviewer can destroy your film.

The second one is the release strategy of Malayalam cinema.

They are blaming the reviewers by coining the phrase “review bombing.” Why is no one talking about “Release Bombing.” Till now, in 2023 (From Jan to Oct), a total of 207 Malayalam movies have been released in theaters. That means if you take an average, at least 4 to 5 films have been released every weekend this year.

One “request” the makers of movies often make to reviewers is that, please give us breathing space. You people are not giving breathing space to each other. How are you expecting reviewers to provide breathing space to your movies?

If you are charting 4 movies for every weekend, isn’t it evident that people among you are so sure that the film that got released the previous weekend won’t survive even a week? I am talking about only Malayalam cinema. Tamil, Hindi, and English movies are also getting released in our theaters, and that too on a larger number of screens.

So, is it really the reviewers who are not giving breathing space to movies? Actually, with this many movies from all the languages getting a release with scattered screen counts, along with various other OTT originals, it is the reviewers who should be asking for breathing space.

So what is the solution?

Create quality content. In a recent interview with The Cue, reputed producer Santhosh T Kuruvila talked about the one-time producer trend in Malayalam cinema. I don’t have an accurate statistic with me, but if you look at who has produced all these 207 films, there will be only a few films that have been bankrolled by producers who had some experience in the industry.

I know that asking people with money to not produce a movie for the sake of fame or prestige is as problematic as asking reviewers to not review a film. It is their freedom. But the inexperience of those newbie producers is getting exploited, and that has made this industry look like a factory that has no quality check agenda in its workflow.

The industry should understand the reality that we are a market that welcomes movies from all languages. And they should try to have a proper release strategy by locking release dates early and releasing fewer films. If you wish to produce movies that won’t survive a single week, then the current design is the best one to get into the Guinness Book of World Records for being the industry that produced the most number of movies in a year.

On an exhibition level, there should be an intent to make the viewer feel that theaters are a welcoming space. If a family wants to go to a movie, the head of the family shouldn’t feel like installing a microfinance app. Offer flexible pricing. If morning shows can be priced less, it will certainly give a chance for movies to reach more people. The more people get to see quality content, the more word of mouth will spread aggressively. Have some consideration on your minimum number of people policy, at least on the release day or for the FDFS of a film. Apps like Bookmyshow and Paytm should think about charging customers for a booking rather than charging them for each ticket.

What is the current scenario?

This week, you will have Garudan and Tholvi FC getting a release in theaters. Next week, on November 10th, Bandra and Vela are scheduled for release along with Tamil movies Japan and Jigarthand Double X. Two days later, on November 12th, you have the Salman Khan starrer Tiger 3. Kalyani Priyadarshan starrer Sesham Mikeil Fathima has confirmed its date as November 17th. As per industry sources, Joju George starrer Antony, Mammootty-Jyothika starrer Kaathal, Mukesh starrer Philip’s, Basil Joseph starrer Falimy, Aju Varghese starrer Phoenix, G Marthandan’s Maharani, Arun Bose’s Marivillin Gopurangal, Anoop Menon’s Ohh Cinderella and a few more are planning for a release in November.

Roughly 14 movies are planning to have November release over four weekends. That means around 3 movies per weekend. Please note that we have not considered other movies like Tiger 3, Japan, Jigarthanda Double X, and Dhruva Natchathiram in this list.

So it is pretty clear that it’s not the reviewers who are not giving the movies their breathing space. If you are releasing 3-4 movies per week, how delusional are you to think that every film will get acceptance if reviewers give them breathing space? Get out of your delulu and focus on the basics: quality content, adequate and sensible marketing, and a release strategy that gives breathing space for movies and audiences.

Final Thoughts


Green: Recommended Content

Orange: The In-Between Ones

Red: Not Recommended