Mumbai: Talks aimed at breaking a deadlock in the film industry that has seen all cinematic releases suspended over the past month, fell apart at the eleventh hour on Monday night over a disagreement on how to distribute box office revenues.
The collapse of the talks represents a severe setback for an already beleaguered industry, and surprised observers who were confident that film producers and multiplex owners were close to resolving their differences over the revenue-sharing terms of box office takings.
Film producers, who have suspended all releases since 4 April in protest over what they regard as inequitable terms, said on Monday night that they would now explore alternative release strategies for the growing backlog of films, and would be ready to make an announcement in two weeks.
Movie muddle: A PVR cinema hall in New Delhi. Producers are now exploring alternative release strategies for the growing backlog of films. Harikrishna Katragadda / Mint
“Our talks have stalled,” said Mukesh Bhatt, film-maker and official spokesperson for the Producers Distributors Forum, whose film Jashn is one of the films that has been delayed. “Multiplexes have come back with same percentage that they had proposed in January 2009 with absolute no change. If that was a feasible percentage then why would we have stalled releases for so many months and deprived audiences of films?” Added Bhatt, “We are looking at an alternative release strategy of releasing films in single screens and independent non-national multiplexes.”
With the stand-off already having wiped out a clear two months of this year’s release calendar, UTV Motion Pictures Plc, which has held back the release of Vishal Bharadwaj’s Kaminey, starring Priyanka Chopra and Shahid Kapoor, said it would also start to explore alternative release options for its films.
“Since there is no resolution on the national chain of multiplex issue, UTV will proceed to start releasing its big and small movies in single-screen theatres and non-national chain multiplexes nationwide from July onwards,” said Siddharth Roy Kapur, chief executive.
The revenue sharing terms proposed by the multiplex owners of 50:50 in the first week, 40:60 in the second week and 30:70 for the third week—with the bigger share going to multiplexes—were not acceptable to the film producers, said people familiar with the development who didn’t want to be named.
Producers’ representatives at the meeting included Ronnie Screwvala of UTV and Sunil Lulla of Eros International Plc.
The Multiplex Association of India confirmed on Monday night that the sticking point remained the revenue sharing terms, and said it would would publish a “white paper” for the media in the next few days to further outline its position and arguments.
“We were in discussions to find a solution that would leave both equally satisfied,” said Deepak Asher, president of the association. “We had a meeting but we were not able to find a solution. Revenue sharing was the primary issue and we were not able to reconcile our differences. We are formulating a white paper for the media, which should be ready in a couple of days, to put our points in the right perspective.”
Among the films that have seen their release dates pushed back, are Sajid Nadiadwala’s Kambakkt Ishq, with Kareena Kapoor and Akshay Kumar, as well as Piyush Jha’s Sikandar and Kal Kisne Dekha, starring Juhi Chawla and Rishi Kapoor, and Kabir Khan’s New York, starring Katrina Kaif, John Abraham and Irrfan Khan.