Chennai: Kamal Haasan’s move to premiere his latest film on direct-to-home (DTH) television has led to a boycott of the movie by theatres in Tamil Nadu. Most cinema halls in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka may also not show the film.
Kamal Haasan has produced, directed and starred in the spy thriller, Vishwaroopam in Tamil and Vishwaroop in Hindi. The DTH premiere will take place on 10 January before the film is scheduled to open in cinema halls on 11 January.
Theatre owners fear a loss of box-office revenue to DTH. Haasan has tied up with six operators—Tata Sky, DishTV, Sun Direct, Airtel DTH, Videocon DTH and Reliance Big TV—for the premiere. Subscribers will need to pay Rs.1,000 for the Tamil version and Rs.500 for the Hindi one.
The boycott was announced by Abirami Ramanathan, president of the Chennai City Theatre Owners’ Association. Tamil Nadu has about 1,200 movie halls.
Hall owners and film distributors have also asked Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalithaa to intervene and protect their interests.
The movie may get a restricted release in other southern states as well.
“It is Kamal Haasan’s right to exploit his movie the way he wants and it is our right to screen the films we want, “ said Odugoudar Ranga, chairman of Karnataka Film Exhibitors Federation.
Most of a film’s revenue is made in the first few days of release unlike earlier when movies would run for more than 100 or 200 days, said a theatre owner who didn’t want to be named.
“Viswaroopam was produced at a cost of Rs.95 crore and the entire risk is on me and not theatre owners,” Haasan told reporters last week. “I have told them if the movie makes money, then you can pay me. If anybody is risking money, it is me as a producer and not the theatre owners.”
Kalapathi Suresh, managing director of AGS Films, which produces and distributes films and owns cinema halls, said: “Whether it carries a lot of financial risk or not can be told only when the movie is released. Since it is a significantly unique movie, we will have to wait and watch before anything can be said.”
Harit Nagpal, managing director and chief executive of Tata Sky Ltd, dismissed the threat to theatre-hall collections.
Given the premium pricing for the premiere, those who will subscribe to the DTH premiere aren’t the kind who will queue up to buy tickets at multiplexes, he said. On the other hand, these are new audiences that could boost hall attendances through their ability to influence opinion by talking up a movie, he said.