Malayalam film industry faces crisis: Four releases stalled as revenue-sharing battle escalates

Sreedhar Pillai

Dec 15, 2016 16:53:21 IST

It seems as though Santa Claus is not coming to Mollywood laden with new films this Christmas. A major crisis is brewing in the Malayalam film industry as various film organisations are going on a strike over the sharing of box-office revenues. There will not be any new releases and shooting and production work of new films will be stopped from 16 December.

The big Christmas releases scheduled to hit the screens over the 23 December weekend — Mohanlal’s Munthirivallikal Thalirkkumbol, Prithviraj’s Ezra, Dulquer Salmaan’s Jomonte Suvisheshangal and Jayasurya’s Fukri — have been postponed indefinitely. The battle is basically between the Malayalam Film Producers Council and Distributors Association versus the powerful Kerala Film Exhibitors Federation (KFEF) led by the controversial Liberty Basheer.

 Malayalam film industry faces crisis: Four releases stalled as revenue-sharing battle escalates

Mohanlal’s Munthirivallikal Thalirkkumbol, Prithviraj’s Ezra, Dulquer Salmaan’s Jomonte Suvisheshangal and Jayasurya’s Fukri are among the affected films

The current crisis is basically over the percentage of box-office collections. The single screens in Kerala were paying 60 percent of the total net to distributors and producers in the first week of a new film. KFEF chief Basheer, who has control over a large number of screens in the Malabar area — which accounts for 45 percent of the total box-office collections in Kerala — wants parity with multiplexes, which get 50 percent of the total net in the first week.

National multiplex players like PVR, Carnival Cinemas, Inox and Cinepolis have very profitable properties in Kerala. Basheer, over the years, has been controlling the KFEF. The KFEF had a big fight over the wide release of Malayalam films in the recent past, and then they tried to stop the wide release of Baahubali in Kerala. The Competition Commission of India had recently passed strictures against KFEF and against Basheer in particular as they tried to scuttle the growth of the oldest theatre in Kerala, Crown Theatre in Kozhikode.

The producers and distributors' association has been over the years trying to clip the wings of Basheer, who is popular among single screen owners. On the other hand, Kerala is seeing a theatre boom as major multiplex players in India make a beeline for the state, where the government runs theatres. The state government runs 15-odd screens under the Kairali-Sree brand and that is one of the most successful public sector ventures in the state. And older single screens are converting to twin or triple screens, with the latest in sound and screening technology. Kerala, which now has around 450 screens, is expected to have over 1000 screens by 2020.

Meanwhile, fans of Mohanlal, Dulquer Salmaan and Prithviraj are peeved that there are no new releases for Christmas, traditionally one of the best seasons in Kerala. But there is still some hope that the issue will be sorted out amicably as there is lot riding on the Christmas releases in a year when Pulimurugan grossed over Rs 100 crore worldwide.

Updated Date: Dec 15, 2016 17:03:12 IST