Finally, the 48-day strike, spearheaded by Tamil Film Producers Council (TFPC), has been called off . At a tripartite meeting called by the State government, between producers, theatre owners and DSPs, an agreement has been made which will be ratified in the coming months. Everybody in the industry, especially the workers, heaved a sigh of relief.
Karthik Subbaraj’s Mercury will be the first Tamil film to release after the strike, today (April 20). Vishal has seen to it that it gets a solo release to compensate the missing out of the all India release last Friday. Vishal said: “A release regulation committee has been formed. We have a tentative list of films scheduled for release till March 2019. As far as big films are concerned like Rajini sir’s Kaala and Kamal sir’s Vishwaroopam 2 , both are pan-Indian films and they will have to choose a release date suitable for all markets. The shooting of films will resume from April 20.”
From April 27, a regular stream of Tamil films will start hitting the screens. TFPC says that maximum three small and medium budget films will be accommodated every week depending on their budget.
It is a victory of sorts for TFPC who were able to reduce Virtual Print Fee (VPF) by half for E-Cinemas (1K projection), which forms nearly 60% of screens in Tamil Nadu. The weekly VPF charges for E-Cinemas will now come down from ₹9,000 to around ₹5,000. The State government will also issue a Government order which allows flexi-ticket pricing in Tamil Nadu with a cap of ₹150. Ticket prices will now become flexible and rates would be charged according to the star value or the market demand of the film. Vishal says one of the biggest gains is that there will be transparency in box-office collections with total computerisation of ticket sales.
The other side
But the theatre associations and DSPs are yet to come out with any press statements. Senthil Kumar, co-founder of Qube Cinemas, says, “We have reduced E-Cinema VPF rates by almost 50%, but these are impossibly difficult rates for us. We were forced to agree to try this for an interim period of six months by the theatres who were desperate that the strike should end with even the Telugu content being blocked.” The theatres are happy that the strike has been withdrawn without them having to share VPF charges, canteen sales or advertisement revenue.
However, there has been no reduction in VPF charges on DCI-enabled systems (2K and above projection) which is installed in renovated modern theatres and multiplexes. The DSPs will never allow that, as India is slowly moving from E-Cinemas to DCI-enabled cinemas. And if they reduce VPF charges in Tamil Nadu, it would have a cascading effect in the rest of the country. Disney is releasing its tentpole summer release Avengers: Infinity War only in screens fitted with DCI.
The IPL fever
Meanwhile, the rush to release new Tamil movies has also slowed down. A producer, on condition of anonymity, said: “I was originally looking forward to release my film on April 27 or May 4. But now I have changed plans and decided to postpone my release to June/July as the situation is still unstable with hash tags ‘no new Tamil releases till Cauvery Water Management Board is set up’ trending on social media.”
At the moment, IPL 2018 is ruling with high TRPs. One solid Tamil hit is required to bring back the audiences to the cinemas, and revive the trade. All eyes are on now the release date of Kaala and Vishwaroopam 2.