Since 16 December, the Malayalam film industry has come to a virtual standstill, with no new releases for Christmas and New Year, as various film organisations too now join the fight between Kerala Film Producers Association (KFPA) and Kerala Film Exhibitors Federation (KFEF).
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.
Last week’s negotiations under the patronage of the state Culture Minister AK Balan bore no fruit. Both sides refused to budge from their respective stances, though they did welcome the Minister’s suggestion to appoint a Commission to resolve the deadlock.
The crisis took a turn for the worse, when on Friday two recent Malayalam blockbusters -Pulimurugan and Kattappanayile Rithwik Roshan- that were running to full houses were withdrawn from KFEF-affiliated theatres. Both movies however continue to run in theatres and multiplexes that do not come under KFEF.
Mollywood has reportedly sustained a loss of about Rs 5 crore due to the stalling of new releases, which in turn has proved advantageous to non-Malayalam movies like Dangal. The Aamir Khan-starrer was released in about 100 screens across Kerala and has already grossed more than Rs 1 crore from multiplexes in Ernakulam alone.
Liberty Basheer -president of KFEF- told The News Minute that producers were deliberately trying to delay resolving the issue at the earliest. Accusing the KFPA president G Sureshkumar of trying to favour his daughter’s upcoming movie, Basheer says:
“If the strike is called off now, his (Suresh Kumar) daughter’s (Keerthi Suresh) movie Bhairavaawill get only 70 theatres in Kerala. If the strike continues, it will by default get 222 theatres.”
Meanwhile, CR Koker -the president of the Kerala Distributors Association- alleged that Basheer’s autocratic way of functioning is the actual reason behind the whole crisis.
“We are unwilling to go for any sort of compromise, unless he withdraws his decisions. The KFEF refused to consider even the Minister’s suggestions in our last meeting,” Koker said in a press meet on Wednesday.
He opined that multiplexes deserved an equal share for the quality-viewing experiences they offered: “But in other theatres, it is not so. They simply cannot change terms and conditions whenever they want to do so.”
Mohanlal’s Munthirivallikal Thalirkkumbol, Dulquer Salmaan’s Jomonte Suvisheshangal, Prithviraj’s Ezra and Jayasurya’s Fukri that were scheduled to be released in the year-end festive season are few of the movies hit by the current stalemate.