Kamal Haasan’s plan to release his Vishwaroopam on DTH platforms ahead of its theatrical release has received a shot in the arm with producers coming forward to support the move.

On Monday morning, the Producers’ Council and the Film Chamber of Commerce backed Kamal Haasan's decision to premiere his spy thriller Vishwaroopam on Direct-To-Home platforms eight hours before the theatrical release during Pongal. The industry urged theatre owners and distributors from across the State to co-operate for the smooth release of the film after a section of them from the Tamil Nadu Film Exhibitors’ Association and Tamil Nadu Theatre Owners Association expressed their reservations over the move.

“We will not co-operate with the theatrical release of the film if he doesn't reconsider his decision,” R. Panneerselvam, general secretary of Tamil Nadu Film Exhibitors' Association, told MetroPlus. “There used to be over 2,600 theatres in 1984. Now, there are only about 1,250 cinema halls because many of them shut down due to the growth of cable and satellite TV. This will wipe out the remaining theatres too,” he said.

Dispelling fears

“The other exhibitors are already on board,” Kamal Haasan told The Hindu. “There is too much at stake and nobody has the right to make spot judgments on the issue before understanding the merits of the case.”

On Sunday evening, Kamal Haasan released an audio statement on SoundCloud to dispel these fears, stating that both cinema halls and DTH platforms could supplement each other, and this extra stream of revenue would open up more avenues for small producers and independent filmmakers who are unable to get adequate screens.

“ A single preview show on DTH platforms priced at Rs.1,000 ahead of the release will only help spread the word about how good it is, like a trailer,” filmmaker Bharathiraja said, speaking on behalf of the Producers’ Council. Producer-director A. Kothandaraman (KR) said that a film of this scale — with a Rs. 95-crore budget — would require other streams of revenue to cover costs, especially since Kamal Haasan is not demanding a Minimum Guarantee.

Traditionally, producers of big-budget, hyped films resort to making distributors and theatre owners pay an advance amount as “Minimum Guarantee,” a non-refundable amount irrespective of how the film really fares. Minimum Guarantee (MG) amounts are usually huge for the most hyped films and the risks have often driven distributors to bankruptcy in the event of the film bombing. Rarely, have producers voluntarily returned the MG amounts.

“MG comes into play only when you are not confident about your product,” says Kamal Haasan. “I have done it too, so I am actually arguing against something I have done in the past. The way it should be is like a farmer taking his produce to the market. If the fruits are good, they will sell.”

Defying convention, Kamal Haasan has offered Vishwaroopam to theatre owners on a percentage basis. A move that will cut out the middlemen.

Cutting out middlemen

“Films usually don’t make money because there are too many middlemen who have to recover the MG they paid to acquire the film for their territory from bigger distributors. The more the middlemen, the more the chances that not everyone will recover money,” says S. Sashikanth, producer, who runs Y Not Studios. “DTH will benefit quality small films more than big films. It will open up the market dynamically. Small films don't need the grandeur of the theatre. Which is why we wanted to release Kadhalil Sothappuvathu Yeppadi on TV first. It's a great platform for a film like Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanom or a Pizza, which may actually be scarier when you watch it in a dark room alone.”

The president of Tamil Nadu Theatre Owners Association, Abhirami Ramanathan, hadn't reached an agreement with Kamal Haasan at the time of this issue going to print, and was unavailable for comment.