Tamil, Telugu film industries protest digital providers, on indefinite strike from today
Chennai: The South Indian film business will be hit as two major industries—Tamil and Telugu—shut down from Thursday to protest against digital service providers (DSPs) over pricing issue.
Theatres will also remain shut from Friday in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
While there will be no new film releases in Tamil and Telugu languages on Friday, Malayalam and Kannada film industry would go ahead with their releases. English and Hindi language movies will also release as per schedule.
On Tuesday, the Tamil Film Producers’ Council, in a statement, said it would be on an indefinite strike from 1 March and there will be no new Tamil releases until an agreement is reached with DSPs.
In a letter to the Telugu Film Chamber of Commerce, P. Kiran, convener of the south Indian film industry’s joint action committee, said, “It had been decided to go ahead with the stoppage of screening of movies from 2 March in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana states.”
After several rounds of talks between producers and DSPs failed, the strike call was given by the film industry to protest against the alleged exorbitant virtual print fee (VPF) levied by service providers like UFO Moviez and QUBE Cinemas Technologies.
“Qube offers multiple price options in Bangalore (at the) meeting between producers and digital service providers, including dramatic price reduction from Rs22,500 to Rs14,000. All offers were turned down,” said Jayendra Panchapakesan, co-founder of Qube Cinema, in a tweet, last week.
While DSPs claim that their VPF rate of Rs22,500 per screen is the lowest compared to other countries, the producers demand that there should be no VPF, starting from 2018, as per their earlier agreement.
DSPs supply equipment to project films in theatres, using satellites and they levy a charge for this service, which is borne by producers and theatre owners.
When the theatres moved to digital from analog “producers/distributers paid VPF thinking that after certain period, the projectors will be handed over to theatres. But now DSPs say, they own the equipments,” said producer S.R. Prabhu.
As per the agreement, there would be no VPF charges from 2018, when the equipment costs would be fully recovered. The installed projectors would be owned by the theatres and DSPs would only claim the service charges. But service providers have now increased the price, owing to the difference in screen formats across theatres in South India.
Prabhu, who is also the treasurer of the Tamil Film Producers’ Council, claimed in a tweet that he had to pay Rs50 lakh for his recent critically acclaimed film Aruvi, which was made on a budget of Rs2 crore.
Though the industry seems to agree with Prabhu and other producers, distributor Tirupur Subramaniam claimed the VPF amounted to only 2-3% of a film’s total production cost, whereas the salary given to “big stars” eat away 70% of the total money.
Also, this strike in March—a lean period due to examination season—would affect small budget films and not big releases, said a distributor from Chennai, on the condition of anonymity.
Also, this strike in March—a lean period due to examination season—would affect small budget films and not big releases, said a distributor from Chennai, on the condition of anonymity.fifthMAds
In the series of meetings, held over the last few weeks, producers demanded exemption from VPF, a share in advertisement revenue and a fixed eight-minute time limit to screen commercial advertisements in theatres.
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