TN film industry prepares for total shutdown
The latest announcement by the TFPC comes on the heels of the announcement by Tamil Nadu Theatre Owners Association which had called for a theatrical shutdown from March 16
The ongoing standoff between Tamil film producers and the digital service providers (which has resulted in an industry-wide strike with no new Tamil films getting a theatrical release from March 1) has seemingly reached the next level with the TFPC (Tamil Nadu Film Producers Association) calling for a complete shutdown from March 16. This total shutdown would mean that all film-related work will be stalled. There will be no shooting, no post-production work, no film launches, no press meets and no new releases from next Friday, March 16.
This announcement by the TPFC comes on the heels of the announcement by the Tamil Nadu Theatre Owners Association that all theatres across the state will be shut from March 16 unless the government accedes to their stipulations (regarding licence renewal, local body taxes and maintenance fee). Now, the TFPC, for its part, has come up with its own demands.
In an official press release, the council spelled out its six important demands:
1. No more Visual Print Fee, which is currently levied by DSPs such as QUBE and UFO
2. Flexible ticket pricing according to the scale and season of the film release
3. Online booking charges must be categorically reduced
4. Computerised ticket booking facilities must be made available in all theatres
5. The overall business model must be regulated to ensure that small films get enough screens for release
6. Production costs should be regulated
SR Prabhu, Treasurer of the Tamil Nadu Producers Council, says that the total industry shutdown is only a logical extension of the ongoing strike. "We need the Visual Print Fees to be waived off completely. We have put forward some additional demands for the benefit of the industry, especially the producers of low-budget films. The Producers' Council is meeting on the evening of March 12 (Monday) to discuss the logistics of the shutdown and further course of action. We'll have full clarity on the issue only after the meet."
Producer G Dhananjayan, whose maiden film as producer for Creative Entertainers, Mr Chandramouli, has just entered its pre-production phase, thinks the complete shutdown is the need of the hour, as the industry is in 'turmoil because of the excessive distribution costs'.
"The FICCI Frames report categorically says that the Tamil industry's market graph is on a downward trend. The main reason attributed for the market plunge is the increased distribution cost. The only way out is to bring down the digital costs. We are not the only people who are affected by the strike. If this helps bring about a permanent solution, these small inconveniences won't matter," he adds.
Maapilai Singam-fame director Rajasekhar, who has scheduled the shoot of his untitled film with actor Jeeva in the first week of April, hopes this gets resolved soon. "A permanent resolution is very important to the well-being of the industry. If the shutdown continues into April, our shooting has to be postponed. But I am confident that the concerned parties will reach a compromise very soon."
Subbu, owner of Kasi theatre, laments mounting losses. "We are incurring huge losses because new Tamil films are not being screened. If the shutdown happens, we will have no other choice but to go along with the Theatre Owners Association's decision," he says. "As of now, for every 100 rupees that we earn, only 30 rupees (or 35 rupees in the case of theatres in the city) comes to us. The remaining goes to the producers and distributors. In that limited share, we have to pay taxes, refurbish the theatre, and account for other maintenance expenses. It's not right for the producers to ask us to bear the VPF charges given this. Also, historically, we have never borne any of these costs."
Abirami Ramanathan, president of the Tamil Nadu Theatre Owners and Distributors Association, was not available for comment. Interestingly, a source from the association has previously stressed that Chennai theatres wouldn't be affected by the strike.
A compromise is being worked out between producers, DSPs, and theatre owners, as no new releases will mean further trouble for the industry. The question now is whether the big summer releases will see the light of day as scheduled, given the present state of affairs. And that's a question we will have an answer to, during the coming days.