Thursday saw the on-going tussle between Kerala Film Exhibitors Federation (KFEF) and Kerala Film Producers’ Association (KFPA) over revenue-sharing escalate further, with the shutting down of 350 A-class theatres in the state.
Even after almost a month, the present crisis shows no sign of an immediate resolution. All theatres owned by KFEF will remain shut indefinitely till such time a feasible solution is not arrived at.
So now it is not just new movie-releases in Malayalam that will be affected, but even films made in other languages. Malayalam moviedom has come to a literal grinding halt since 16 December last year, with both sides continuing to stick to their respective stances.
Even as Tamil superstar Vijay’s Bhairavaa was released in multiplex screens across the state, all KFEF theatres bore the sign board ‘No Show’.
The KFEF has been demanding equal share of the box-office collection, as single-screen owners now have to pay 60% to distributors and producers during the first week of a new release, while multiplexes get to keep 50% of the share.
Speaking to The News Minute, President of Exhibitor's Federation Liberty Basheer says that the federation will carry on the strike until a fair deal is made:
"We understand that a consensus can be reached only through several rounds of discussions. Previous negotiations did not bear fruit, but we all hope that future ones will.”
Basheer admitted that the federation is ready to make a few concessions in their demands, but refused to further elaborate on the same.
However as far as KFPA is concerned, maintaining status quo is the only solution acceptable to them. Association president Suresh Kumar seems unmoved by the exhibitor’s demands:
"We cannot afford to have one person create a crisis in the whole film industry by raising unfair demands."
Dismissing allegations of an ego clash, Basheer retorts: "This is not an ego issue, but a genuine demand. There are people out there who have been trying to create such a false impression since day one.”
He even goes on to accuse actor Dileep of prolonging the crisis and trying to create a new federation of theatre owners:
"We believe Dileep has been in talks with a number of theatre owners, asking them to chalk out a new federation.”
Responding that any crisis sees like-minded people get together, Suresh feels that if a new federation of theatre owners is in the making, the industry would welcome such a move. He also pointing out that the state’s A-grade theatres lack facilities compared to multiplexes, hence their demand for an equal share of the revenue cannot be entertained.
But KFEF general secretary Shaju Akkara refutes these arguments and claims that 80% of the theatres are already on par with the multiplexes:
"They are already advanced in terms of infrastructure. Moreover, our theatres are the common man's theatres, not posh ones with 100 seats meant for the elite. This is where the masses come to watch movies.”
He insists that KFEF has always been ready for a compromise, so that ‘business’ would go on: "Raising a demand and holding a strike does not mean we are people who are not committed to cinema, the way quite a few prominent persons have chosen to portray us.
With digitalization and countless number of theatres in play, our revenue has taken a drastic hit. Producers can afford to spend the same amount to make a movie, and get it simultaneously screened in multiple theatres. We are the ones who have been badly hit. The present arrangement has been in place since 2003. Times are changing. Terms also must change. When a strike is on, it is natural to suffer huge losses.”
The ominous silence of mainstream actors in the matter too has drawn its share of criticism on social media.
"People who write blogs on every issue have chosen to keep silent. Many including Mukesh, Madhu Sir, Innocent and Suresh Gopi have at least enquired about the issue. As prominent stars of the industry, Mohanlal and Mammootty could at least have spoken to me in private about it," rues Suresh Kumar.