The Tamil Film Industry Strike Continues Without Any Resolution In SightApr 06, 2018
Restless, bored, agitated – that's how fans are feeling without any solace in sight for them. It's already a month and no new Tamil movie has released. Everything in Tamil Film Industry has come to a standstill due to the shut down. Two guilds have announced two different strikes - (read on to know what the fight is all about) one is by the Producers Council and another by the theatre owners and nobody is interested to back down. In the midst of this, where does a magnum opus like Rajinikanth's 'Kaala' stand and what does the future look like?
Core issues of the producer council – Monopoly and dominance of theatres
At loggerheads are three stakeholders - The Tamil Nadu Film Producers Council (TFPC), theatre owners and Digital Service Providers (DSPs). The industry is reluctant to pay the Virtual Print Fee (VPF) to DSPs and demand the theatre owners to bear the same. DSPs provide equipment to project films using satellites in theatres and levy a charge (VPF) for this service, borne by producers and theatre owners. As the equipment is part of theatre infrastructure, producers are reluctant to part away with more pay towards the same. Any place comes with equipment, so why pay anything separately for it, quips the producers guild. The theatres are charging the producers for the deliverables as additional service.
Producers also have the grievance that theatre owners are loading the consumers for online ticketing expenses. The ticket priced at Rs 120 earlier is now being charged Rs 160 with GST thus curbing their numbers of people visiting theatres that is ultimately affecting the producers. All the charges that were nominal before have been increased.
The protest is primarily for the reason that in the year 2012 producers were paying Rs 50,000 for traditional prints. Digital copies were introduced at a cost of Rs 15,000 for its lifetime run. But now it is charged as Rs 15,000 for a week. Print copies are an asset to producers and returned back when the run is complete. Whereas Digital copies are owned by theatres and if a film runs for three weeks the cost is equivalent but producers have no ownership over the copy. The projectors that used to run print copies are owned by theatres and producers are being asked to pay for the machines as well. For 2K projectors (D cinema), charges were fixed at Rs 14,000 per week but they actually cost the producer Rs 27,000. For print, more number of copies were used to reduce cost but now more copies mean more cost.
Theatre owners are on strike to protest against government Local Body Entertainment Tax
The Tamil Nadu Film Exhibitors Association is protesting against the state government to eliminate the 8% Local Body Entertainment Tax imposed with GST last year.
Theatre owners claim that the digital technology is benefiting the producers, maintaining a low cost on wider release and they are not liable to pay for the technology. The only way out from this problem is that producers and theatres discuss the core issue about VPF and sort it out. The production council is no more producing films because the pressure on the producers builds up if the lineup of films increases. Almost 30 films are in the pipeline for release. The future of Rajinikanth starrer 'Kaala' directed by Pa Ranjith is yet to get censor certificate and may be pushed to a later date from April 27 as other producers whose films are awaiting release may demand preference.
The outcome of the battle
Though the four film industries stood united against the issues, Kannada and Malayalam film industries held a one-day token strike and the Telugu film industry withdrew its strike last week. Three other south Indian film industries have accepted the new conditions and prices offered by DSPs like Qube while Tamil Film industry is still resolute. This is the longest strike ever by the Tamil film industry and with a beeline of big films piled from April onwards, an inevitable crisis is on.