Kamal Haasan’s move to release his next movie, Vishwaroopam, on the DTH platform on a pay-per-view basis has created a flutter in the Tamil film industry, pitting him against theatre owners and film distributors who are vehemently opposing the move.
So far, the industry has been very lax in adopting new technologies on the business side of affairs, be it releasing movies on pay-per-view on DTH platforms within four to six weeks after they hit the theatre, or releasing the movies within a couple of months on DVD for home entertainment. These have become the norm in the Hindi film industry.
“There are two sides to that story,” says Senthil Kumar, co-founder of Real Image Technologies Private Limited. “Tamil films have been in the forefront of adopting new digital technologies like DTS sound or Dolby Atmos, or even shooting the cinema in digital cameras. But where it has been lagging behind is in adopting technologies like pay-per-view on DTH within a few weeks of theatrical release or even releasing the DVDs for home entertainment. It makes no sense because that just paves the way for video pirates.”
But even by any stretch of imagination, what Kamal Haasan is attempting to do — a world first for this kind of a blockbuster movie cinema — seems hard for many to grasp. “It is not impossible to record the contents of a digital set top box,” a city-based entrepreneur, who runs a popular video platform for leading Hollywood studios, said. “He is running a massive risk but it could prove to be a smart move if it works. He could have the head start over others on how to make this work.”
Kamal Haasan has repeatedly asserted over the past week in various forums that he was just attempting to explore a legitimate source of revenue and that the single pay-per-view show priced at Rs. 1,000 per activation must not be construed to be a threat to the theatrical business.
The closest analogy to what Kamal Haasan is attempting comes from Hollywood when producer Marc Cuban, in 2006, released Oscar winning director Steven Soderberg’s low budget film ‘Bubble’ simultaneously in select theatres, on pay-per-view DTH and also in DVD format. Interestingly, there too the National Association of Theatre Owners vehemently opposed the move.
“There is merit in the argument of both sides,” Mr. Kumar says. “While the theatre owners are worried about video piracy, Kamal Haasan is the producer of the film and must be left free to act according to his will.”