With the four south Indian film industries coming together against digital service providers, it may well be that no new south Indian film will release from March 1.
Representatives from all the industries – Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, and Kannada – and digital service providers (DSPs) have failed to reach a conclusion after two rounds of talks that happened in Chennai and Hyderabad.
The third and final round of talks is scheduled to take place on February 23.
According to the four film industries, the DSPs who deliver content straight to theatres via satellite for digital projection, charge rates that are too high. DSPs such as Qube and UFO are believed to charge around Rs 22,500 per screen for digital projection. This includes the cost of hiring and delivery of content via digital distribution in theatres.
A press note released in this regard states:
“The Joint Action Committee of the Southern Indian Film Industry and Digital Service Providers have met on 16-02-2017 at 11.00 a.m. in the South Indian Film Chamber of Commerce, Chennai, to sort out the various issues pertaining to the film industry. It was decided to meet again on 23-02-2018 (Friday) to arrive at a final conclusion. There is no change in the decision of stopping of screening of the films in all theatres of south India from 1st March 2018 and stands as it is, until further notice.
“This is to inform all, that South Indian Film Industry has constituted a ‘Joint Action Committee’ to protest against the monopolistic attitude of Digital Service Providers and various discussions are being held with DSPs. In view of the above, all the theatres (Exhibitors) management are requested not to renew or enter into any new agreements with Digital Service Providers till further communications from Joint Action Committee. Your co-operation in this regard is solicited.
“Joint Action Committee: South Indian Film Chamber of Commerce, Kerala Film Chamber of Commerce, Telugu Film Chamber of Commerce, Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce, Telangana State Film Chamber of Commerce and Tamil Film Producers Council.”
If the talks fail once again, no new south Indian film will release from March 1.
Speaking to TNM, Abirami Ramanathan, owner of Abirami Cinemas, says it's too early to say what decision the exhibitors will take on the south Indian film industries' stance.
"There's one more meeting coming up. We will decide on what to do only after that," he said.
Theatre owners may be forced to shut down or screen films from other languages if the talks fail. Older south Indian films may be screened too.
According to The Hindu, a spokesperson from the Exhibitors' Association said, “None of the theatres will be closed; we have enough English and older content lined up to feed our screens. It is for the first time that producers are fighting a private company and I feel there is a hidden agenda at play. They want to shut down the existing DSPs and start their own companies. How long will they stop new releases?”
The strike may affect several big releases in Tollywood such as Rangasthalam, starring Ram Charan and Samantha, which is slated for a March 30 release. In Tamil, there about 50 movies in the pipeline for the next three months, including Vishal’s Irumbu Thirai, Sai Pallavi's Karu and Rajinikanth's Kaala.
The Malayalam industry has films like Prithviraj's Detroit Crossing and Mammootty's Bilal waiting to be released. The third and last film in the Dandupalya series from the Kannada industry is scheduled to hit the screens on March 2. The Kannada remake of Dhanush's Pa Paandi, starring Ambareesh, Suhaashini Maniratnam and Sruthi Hariharan is also due for release. With March usually being a lean period for the south Indian film industries, they will be looking to resolve their issues with the DSPs before the summer holiday season kicks in.
(With inputs from Digital Native)