Tamil cinema strike: The story till now

Kollywood strike: Curtains remain fallen

Twenty days on and the strike is still far from over

With no releases since March 1, the Tamil film industry is seeing a shut down. The standoff between Tamil Film Producers Council (TFPC) and the Digital Service Providers (DSP) over the Virtual Print Fee (VPF) has crippled the industry. And from last Friday, even film shoots, post-production work and new film and trailer launches have stopped.

However, despite calling for a complete shut down, Sun Pictures held the shoot of their new Vijay film at Victoria Hall in Chennai on Tuesday. TFPC claimed special permission had been given to the producers along with three other production units, stirring a hornet’s nest.

Theatres outside Chennai have also closed down, basically due to lack of fresh Tamil content, though they claim they have shut shop due to state government policies. On an average, there is a total loss of ₹5-8 crore for the Tamil film industry every day. As of now, only 146 screens in Chennai city and suburbs and two multiplexes in Coimbatore are screening films, that too mostly OLF (other language films) and limited shows. Nearly 950 screens outside of Chennai city have temporarily closed down as they are demanding that the government scrap the LBET (local body entertainment tax).

It looks like there is no end to strike in sight. 85% of the screens in Tamil Nadu survive purely on Tamil content. The prime summer season is fast approaching starting from the Easter weekend, but it looks like the curtains will be down.

A course correction

TFPC says that it is not a strike but a revamp and a correction to rectify the industry. As a part of that, they want DSPs to introduce a sunset clause in their agreement, as cost of projection of a film has to be met by the theatre and not by the producer. As Vishal, the TFPC chief, said in a press meet, “For the last 12 years, the producers has been paying VPF, when they had initially said that it would end the moment they recouped their cost. But we are still paying to screen our films to a third party who owns the equipment. Our content brings in the audiences and the theatre and DSPs milk us further as they share the 20 to 25-minute interval break advertisements. Theatres also charge additional internet booking charges. They have exploited us so long, now we are more alert and trying to make the corrections.”

Vishal said that TFPC is in talks with some DSPs who are willing to provide equipment and operational cost at 50% of the current operators’ charges. The idea is that producers want to supply content through their own pipeline and also get additional revenue other than box-office collections. However, the powerful theatres in Tamil Nadu are opposed to the idea of sharing revenue from ancillary sources and switching to TFPC projectors.

Reduce star salaries first

Tirupur Subramaniam, who operates the largest number of screens in Tamil Nadu, says, “We have tie-ups with various DSPs. Our operational costs have shot up and it is not being met because box-office collections have fallen. We depend on income from concessions and online booking fee for our survival. To bring down their costs, shouldn’t producers start by first reducing the unreasonable salaries they pay stars and star directors? And as far as switching to TFPC recognised operators are concerned, my question is: will you allow somebody else to decide what brand of fan or electrical fittings you choose for your home or office?"

Meanwhile, there is hardly any public sympathy for the theatre strike, and the state government seems uninterested in getting the matter resolved.

Sources are indicating that there is tremendous pressure on single screens in rural and semi urban areas to switch over to new projectors to be supplied by TFPC. If they are able to get at least 100 screens before April 13, they are in business. Vishal has hinted that they are looking at a limited release in the future and for films to be classified into big hero, medium budget and small films categories.

It looks like a long haul ahead, as none of Kollywoods stakeholders are in a mood to come to the table and sort it out. They say it is a question of their survival and will fight till the end.

Why you should pay for quality journalism - Click to know more

Related Topics
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Apr 6, 2020 11:05:01 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/kollywood-strike-curtains-remain-fallen/article23309930.ece

Next Story