No new South releases from 1 March: Bollywood, Hollywood releases to dominate theatres across four states

Sreedhar Pillai

Mar,01 2018 12:16:55 IST

There will be no new releases in the four south Indian languages – Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam from today – March 1. The southern producers mainly from Tamil and Telugu are protesting against the Virtual Print Fee (VPF), charged by Digital Service Providers (DSP) like Qube Cinemas Technologies, UFO Moviez, PXD and a few others. The technology film screening has changed from celluloid prints to digital format via the satellite.  

Representational image

Representational image

The producers believe that DSPs such as Qube and UFO are charging too much for the VPF. For a regional film, the DSP charges around Rs 22,500 per screen to the producer. This includes the cost of hiring and delivery of content via digital distribution in theatres. The DSPs, over the years, have become monopolistic and charge fees, which has become prohibitive. The DSPs are now willing to reduce their fees but not willing to scrap it completely.

A South Indian Film Industry – Action Committee has been set up and its convener P Kiran has issued a statement in which he says, “For the last one month, we have been in talks with DSPs  over charges and other issues but they are not willing to reduce VPF. Hence, we have decided to stop new releases from 1 March.”

It is a complete shutdown of cinema theatres in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana where the producers are very strong. In Tamil Nadu, there will be no new Tamil releases but theatres will function. However, in Kerala and Karnataka, there will only be a token one-day strike, but will have releases of  Malayalam and Kannada films which have already been certified.  

Tamil Film Producers Council chief Vishal, in an earlier interview, said, “It is almost 12 years since theatre projection moved from print to digital. The DSPs had, at that time, said that prices would drop once everybody switches to digital. Today, it is almost 100 per cent digital and companies are yet to reduce their rates. They’re functioning like cartels. For a film, we end up paying almost Rs 27 lakh per month for 100 centres. We want a level playing field with minimal charges.”

The producers believe that the payment should go as DSPs, when they set it up, had said that the amount would be withdrawn once they stabilise business. The producers are in no mood to relent ever since DSPs further increased their price for theatres migrating from 1K to 2K projection recently.

On the other hand, DSPs say that they will reduce VPF charges but not do away with it completely. They feel the business model of cinema projection has changed in the digital era. Senthil Kumar, co-founder Qube Cinemas Technologies, the market leader in south, said it was unfair for producers to demand an end to VPF charges without taking into consideration existing contracts and agreements DSP’s have with their clients – the theatres.  

The no-new regional content is not going to hit city theatres as they will have Hindi and English content for the next few weeks. The producers believe that shutting down for a few weeks during the lean period (March is considered the examination season across the South) is the ideal time to fight the DSPs. Abirami Ramanathan, leading theatre owner, said, “Nothing to worry, for the next two weeks it is examination season and there will be a drop in footfalls. We will assume no new Tamil releases for next two weeks but there is enough content that we can play from English and Hindi.”

Updated Date: Mar 01, 2018 12:16 PM