It’s strike time in Kollywood once again. This time, it’s against digital projection companies. Tamil Film Producers Council (TFPC) has announced that no new movie would be released from March 1 to express its anguish over the high cost being charged by digital firms for facilitating screening of films.
“We have told the Digital Service Providers for many years in person and in writing to reduce their exceedingly high prices, but they don’t seem to want to listen to our woes,” says an TFPC office-bearer.
“Thus, the south Indian film industry – including Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka and Kerala – will protest against them until our requests are fulfilled. We have unanimously decided that no films will screened in theatres.”
The issue has been brewing for quite some time now and snowballed into a major issue now. While filmmakers level charges against digital companies, those firms claim that the prices being charged are justifiable.
“What have we done wrong for the film industry? We invested a huge amount of money with a huge risk. If the theatres buy their own equipment, like Sathyam Cinemas, Inox or PVR Cinemas do, there is no need to pay us a fee.
There are operational and maintenance costs. The spares too cost money. Somebody has to pay for the equipment for digital distribution, which has brought down per-print costs considerably,” Senthil Kumar, co-founder, Qube Cinema Technologies, was quoted as saying by The Hindu.
A flash-back is needed at this point to understand the issue fully. Back in 2005, when cinema owners were still sceptical about installing digital projectors, companies such as Qube Cinema Technologies installed equipment in cinemas across the country to facilitate digital
In return, they charge a fee for distribution and claim a slice of the advertising revenue of the cinemas. And this has now become a problem in the industry.
The TFPC has also said alternative to digital service providers were also being explored. The strike call was originally mooted by Telugu film industry.
“TFPC, at its recent consultative meeting, had decided to extend support to its counterparts in the rest of the southern states in the matter and also work out alternatives to the digital service providers,” a statement said.
According to Producers Council, the digital projection companies have not come forward to reduce the virtual print fee (VPF) for digital screening of films in theatres, despite several requests.
Says Vishal, the president of TFPC, “It is the producer who is indirectly paying for equipment. From now on, we will pay only for mastering, providing the digital key and delivery.”
However, Senthil says, “There have been no meetings with the industry. We received a letter from TFPC when the present team took over in May 2017. We responded to that letter. We have not heard anything from them since then.”
Well-wishers of the industry feel that the issue can be sorted out if talks are held between filmmakers and digital providers with genuine intentions and by setting aside egos, if any. Will that happen?