Mumbai: As with all good arguments, it featured icy silences and bruised egos, power struggles and temper tantrums. And as in all happy endings, the warring parties made up with a hug and a kiss.
In a grand finale that lasted about 14 hours and culminated in a nail-biting finish, the film fraternity resolved its two-month-long stand-off with multiplex owners in the early hours of Friday morning, opening the floodgates for a backlog of cinematic releases, starting with Star Trek, which released on Friday.
“We have agreed, on good terms,” said Mukesh Bhatt, spokesman for the Producers Distributors Forum, whose film Jashn has been slated for a 3 July release, following a sleepless night of talks at Yash Raj studios in the Mumbai suburb of Andheri. “The strike has been called off and we are very happy with the outcome.”
It’s showtime: Moviegoers are expected to flock to cinema halls now that the two-month-long stand-off between film producers and multiplex owners over box office takings has been resolved. Ashesh Shah / Mint
Up to 40 films, including Vishal Bhardwaj’s Kaminey, starring Priyanka Chopra and Shahid Kapoor, as well as Sajid Nadiadwala’s Kambakkht Ishq, with Kareena Kapoor and Akshay Kumar, which had been put on hold since the start of the dispute over revenue-sharing terms on 4 April, are now being lined up for release in the coming months.
The Hindi movie release schedule will kick off on Friday, 12 June, with Vashu Bhagnani’s Kal Kisne Dekha, starring Juhi Chawla and Rishi Kapoor, followed a week later by Piyush Jha’s Sikandar, and then New York, Yash Raj Films’ first production of the year, directed by Kabir Khan and starring Katrina Kaif, John Abraham and Irrfan Khan. The film had initially been lined up for a 1 May release.
Movie honchos and multiplex owners broke the deadlock after several false alarms at about 2.30am on Friday, with all parties signing a memorandum of understanding. This came after weeks of talks in different locations across the city and often with people conferenced in from across the world, all aided by the intervention of actors, industry veterans and business leaders.
Listen to Mukesh Bhatt explaining how the producers and distributors struck the deal
“There were hugs and kisses, and everyone was happy that a happy outcome had been reached,” said Deshpande. “Everyone who was involved came together, held hands and reached a goalpost.”
The final agreement with multiplex owners will give producers a 50% share of box office takings in the first week, 42.5% in the second and 37.5% in the third, with the final week yielding 30%. The settlement also allows for a 2.5% swing either way in the event the films make above Rs17.5 crore or less than Rs10 crore. In case of the latter, the films are released with at least 500 prints.
The terms of the agreement, which are due to be formalized on Monday morning, apply to all releases regardless of budget, as well as to Hollywood films. It also gives producers and distributors the first call in terms of a release strategy.
Film-makers Bhatt, Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Yash Chopra were among the key mediators, as were actors Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan, according to Deshpande, who believes that the agreement leaves the fraternity in a stronger position.
The newfound unity could serve as a platform for the industry to tackle other common issues, according to Amit Khanna, chairman of Reliance BIG Entertainment Pvt. Ltd, whose BIG Cinemas division was the first of the multiplex chains to sign the deal.
“I got involved a little late, when people were taking positions without initiating a dialogue,” said Khanna. “I felt that it was imperative that I took a role, because I have been in the industry for a long time. All of us are now going to pull together on subjects like piracy and entertainment tax. If we managed to do this, then the Indian industry is on a good foundation. The mood last night was one of tiredness and relief and joy. It was so late, so we all went straight home after signing.”
Khanna said he was confident that the dispute had brought film producers and multiplexes closer together, adding that there was “no rancour” between the parties.
“We have all suffered long enough, and it is not good to deprive the audiences of films,” said Deepak Asher, president of the Multiplex Association of India. “It was not a good thing to deprive theatres of movies, but the issue is now resolved, and we can work together as a family to resolve other issues. All parties agreed together and at the same time.”
However, a member of the multiplex body, who declined to be named, described the agreement as leaving him “without even his shirt and underpants”.
“All of us gave in. Once PVR fell, then everyone fell. They decided to go with BIG Cinemas,” said this person, who added that PVR Ltd, the country’s biggest multiplex chain, had decided to follow the lead of BIG Cinemas and agree to the terms ahead of the remaining chains. Between them, PVR and BIG Cinemas control up to 25% of the market in terms of box office collections, according to Anand Shah, an analyst at Angel Broking Ltd.
“When you have a gun to your head, then either you pull the trigger, or you call their bluff. There was a full blown argument about this in the middle of the night. When you start pontificating, they will take your shirt, your underpants, and everything. The terms will make everyone bleed and they will mean fundamental changes to the industry. We will see mergers and acquisitions among multiplexes, and we will suffer badly for the next two years, and then I think emerge stronger,” the person added.
In addition to a lengthy pipeline of Hindi language films awaiting release, including Eros International’s Aladin, which will face-off for eyeballs against UTV’s Kaminey on 14 August in time for the Independence Day weekend, audiences are set for a bonanza with a series of Hollywood films also scheduled for screening. These include Terminator Salvation and Transformers, while Fox Star Studios has announced 19 June as the release date for X-Men Origins: Wolverine, 26 June for the release of Bride Wars, with Ice Age 3 scheduled for a 3 July release.
Shares of BIG Cinema ended up 0.95% at Rs441.80, having hit an intraday high of Rs463.50, while PVR rose 5% to Rs142 and INOX Leisure Ltd, the second biggest chain of multiplexes, closed at Rs68.50, up 5%.