June 4th, 2009 - 12:42 am ICT by Sampurn Wire  

“I am getting withdrawal symptoms. Its been 2 whole months since I’ve seen a film in theatres”, laments my friend. She wants to know from me being a part of the “fraternity” why hasn’t the strike ended yet. I tell her that I am no different when it comes to wanting to see movies in a theatre, as much as she does. Truth be told the whole country is echoing the same sentiment “we want to watch movies in a theatre”. Never has this country witnessed such a long “break” in films releasing, at least not in the last 25 years. The bone of contention? United producers and Distributors forum (UPDF) want it their way and multiplexes theirs. Over a period of 2 months there have been several rounds of discussions between the two parties but each time, emotions have managed to outwit reason. Kinda filmy don’t you think?

Lets’s look at how we got here. Over the past couple of years, the dynamics of movie making has changed dramatically. Not only has the craft of story telling changed, the audiences have as well. Case in point a film like Chak De or even Dev D. Till a couple of years back you wouldn’t have imagined these films gaining acceptance, forget becoming hits. This has largely been possible due to a growing section of audiences collectively and colloquially defined as the “multiplex audiences”. These are the upwardly mobile section of the audience which don’t mind paying for a story well told, no matter how unconventional it is. This in turn has given rise to the multiplexes – swish, clean, popcorn-smelling environments which woo you with combo meals and a great film. Producers were quick to spot this trend and starting creating cinema which was largely aimed at the “multiplex audience”. What they didn’t realise was that in the bargain they were creating a goliath that would in turn start dictating terms to them and that’s where the seeds of this conflict were sown. Multiplexes and distributors / producers starting conflicting on revenue share. With each movie would start a new bout of conflict over who gets how much, with each party expecting more. Multiplexes wanted a larger share in the pie as according to them, they get the audiences to see the movies. However, disbutors / producers would argue that content generation is more critical hence they should get an equal share if not more. A couple of other issues like the multiplexes inability to clear huge amount of outstandings towards the distributors, not sharing the benefit of certain incentives given to them by the government with the distributor, led to the eventual deadlock.

Over the next two months, both parties argued incessantly about what should be done but failed to reach any common ground. Multiplexes wanted revenue sharing based on the merit of each film whereas the producer fraternity wanted a common revenue sharing model for every film irrespective of its scale. From an audience point of view it’s a great move as more and more producers will be encouraged to make films which needn’t piggy back on stars as now the ground is levelled in terms of revenue sharing. They realise that if the film is good then they can expect to make the same kind of money if not more with these films.

Its been 60 days now and still no unamious decision has been taken. Multiplexes are bleeding heavily. The cost of operations, manpower etc has taken a toll on them. Most of the multiplexes have shut their screens and are showing films in only one or two screens. There is a creepy silence when you go past a multiplex now. For the producers this means delay in projects. Many big films like Kambakht Ishq, Love aaj kal, Kaminaye, Ajab prem ki gajab kahani were suppose to release in May / June have now been pushed to July, August maybe even September. A producer needs a minimum of 6 weeks of active promotion to release a film. Looking from that stand point the first release will only start from mind July (considering that the strike gets over now). It’s a huge block for the producers as they are not being able to start new projects with the current one’s are not releasing. This also means a lull on the television as a lot of programming /TV shows are based on forthcoming movies. They are also facing the brunt as there are no films to publicise. This not only means programming getting affected but also paid promotions on entertainment specific channels like Zoom, NDTV showbiz, Channel V besides radio channel and websites. No new movie releasing means loss of advertising revenue for all of them. Last but not the least audiences have also been affected by it. They are craving to see a film in theatres. They cant believe that they have been deprived of it for so long. Like my friend puts it, “mutiplexes aur producers ki ladai mein hamari band kyon baja rahe ho?” Well we’ll just have to wait and see which way this goes and more importantly for how long. Till then am reminded of a line from Om Shanti Om, “picture abhi baaki hai mere dost”

- Shivani Prabhakar | Sampurn Media

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