Strike over, multiplexes in two minds over telecasting T20 matches

June 6th, 2009 - 1:59 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, June 6 (IANS) A slew of Bollywood biggies are lined up for release with the row between producers and multiplex owners having ended. Multiplex owners are now doing a re-think on whether to go ahead with the proposed screening of T20 World Cup matches, especially after the “exorbitant” fees for telecast rights.
Most of the leading national multiplex chains had approached sports broadcaster ESPN Star Sports, the official theatre rights owner for the tournament, for screening the T20 World Cup that started Friday as an alternative content to keep the ticket windows buzzing.

But due to the channel’s firm stand in not giving a discount and with the producer’ strike ended, some multiplex owners have started backing out from the proposal to screen T20 matches, while others are still weighing their options.

“ESPN was demanding a fortune. They were asking for Rs.50,000 plus taxes per match per screen. Then to screen the match, the multiplexes need a digital projector which is available for Rs.15,000 a day. That makes our initial expenses to be around Rs.70,000,” Amit Awasthi, manager (programming and operations) of Spice cinemas, Noida told IANS.

“Even if we charged Rs.300 plus for a ticket, we wouldn’t have got a housefull for an audi with a 300-plus capacity considering the odd timings (post 9 p.m.) of the matches. Hence we decided to back out because that much of recovery is not possible and it was not a break-even situation,” he explained.

An executive from PVR cinemas said on condition of anonymity: “We reached up to final discussions but ESPN didn’t budge on any discount on the exorbitant rates.”

While some of the exhibitors bid for the whole tournament, the slots most in demand were the quarter-finals, semi-finals and the final.

Awasthi added that the multiplexes offered a revenue-sharing model to the broadcaster, as per which they would share the profits depending upon the percentage decided. The latter declined the offer.

Industry insiders claim that even Delhi-based multiplex chain Satyam backed out because of ESPN’s price, which reportedly has now fallen to Rs.30,000 plus taxes per match per screen after no multiplex signed on with them.

Leading national multiples chain Big cinemas is, however, still “considering the option” despite the fact that the Bollywood producers’ strike since April 4 over revenue-sharing of forthcoming movies was called off Friday.

“We have been exploring the option (screening T20 world cup) because when the strike was on, most multiplexes were ready to play any content which was compelling enough. But with the strike having been called off now, I don’t think multiplexes will play more than the semi-finals or finals, as there is a major backlog of films,” Tusshar Dhingra, COO of Big cinemas, told IANS over phone from Mumbai.

“But we are still in the process of talks and we will have a re-look now,” he added.

Satish Garg, owner of G3S multiplex in Rohini, said they too hadn’t decided but added that the ‘Bollywood strike’ had no role to play in screening matches.

“We are still considering screening matches but it has not been finalised yet… but the strike has got nothing to do with it. A T20 match lasts for a maximum of four hours and we can always occupy one screen for it and run movies on the other two simultaneously,” he said.

Asked about the issue, ESPN Star Sports refused to comment.

“We are not supposed to share any information and we have nothing to say on this as of now,” the channel’s spokesperson said.

The stand-off between producer-distributors and multiplex owners ended Friday after the two sides agreed upon a revenue-sharing formula. According to the final settlement, 50, 42, 35 and 30 percent of collections in the first, second, third and fourth weeks respectively will be shared between the two parties.

Sajid Nadiadwala’s “Kambakkht Ishq” and Vashu Bhagnani’s “Kal Kisne Dekha” and Saif Ali Khan’s production debut “Love Aajkal” are some of the big releases slated in the coming weeks.

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