Tamil actor Kamal Hassan's stoic struggle to release his latest multi-lingual big budget movie Vishwaroopam on DTH ahead of the theatres seems to have failed. The film will now release in theatres on 25 January.
In a press release here today, the actor said that the film will be released in 500 screens across Tamil Nadu. This is the biggest ever Tamil release so far.
However, he hasn't mentioned anything about the DTH release other than thanking the distributors and exhibitors to have understood his vision of DTH as a new revenue stream.
The actor, who is also the producer and director of Vishwaroopam, wanted to release the movie first on DTH, but faced stiff resistance from the exhibitors and distributors, who thought the move would badly affect the box office collections. Kamal, and some supporters from the industry, maintained that it would not, and would only open up new revenue streams for the producer. Since he couldn't get to an agreement with the distributors, the actor had to call off the release on both DTH and theatres. Five DTH operators had started advance booking for the film for Rs 1000 for a single show.
Unlike Bollywood, Tamil film industry is strongly controlled by distributors and exhibitors, who even do not allow early screening on satellite -TV or release through DVDs. While Hindi films appear on satellite-TV within a few weeks of their release, whether they are hits or duds, Tamil films take several months. This severely limits the satellite-TV and DVD markets of Tamil films. Cross-ownership of satellite TV and distribution networks by big producers also add to the situation.
The delayed release of DVDs has led to massive video piracy — copies of new films come to the state from overseas markets such as Malayasia within a few days of the release. Independent producers bemoan that they couldn't monetise these markets and Kamal's epic fight for DTH release would have opened up new avenues.
Kamal's effort also would have helped the producers to wrest control of screening from the lobby of exhibitors and distributors. For the same reasons, many young directors had come out in support of Kamal.
Kamal wanted to maximise the revenue from his new film, which has reportedly cost him close to Rs 100 crore. According to him, he wouldn't consider it a success if it doesn't collect Rs 150 crore. The '100 crore' club, as one hears in Bollywood, is a key recent talking-point in the industry and the local media. Other than Rajinikanth's Enthiran, no other movie has reached the 100 crore club, where as many Hindi films have breached this mark, which has become the new yardstick for box office success in Indian cinema.