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‘Vishwaroopam’ to be released on DTH and in theatres simultaneously

Kamal Hassan addresses a press conference on his movie ‘Vishwaroopam’ in Chennai on Wednesday. Film distributors and cinema hall owners threatened to boycott the movie in protest against Kamal Haasan’s plan to show it on DTH a day before its theatrical release. Photo: SaiSen/Mint (SaiSen/Mint)Premium
Kamal Hassan addresses a press conference on his movie ‘Vishwaroopam’ in Chennai on Wednesday. Film distributors and cinema hall owners threatened to boycott the movie in protest against Kamal Haasan’s plan to show it on DTH a day before its theatrical release. Photo: SaiSen/Mint
(SaiSen/Mint)

Release of Haasan’s movie postponed on ‘advice’ to maintain better ecosystem, give both platforms equal status

Chennai: Kamal Haasan’s Rajkamal Films International now plans to release the spy thriller Vishwaroopam simultaneously on direct-to-home (DTH) television and in cinema halls after postponing the movie’s release in the face of protests by distributors and exhibitors angered by the production house’s plan to show it first on the TV platform.

The actor-producer-director told reporters on Wednesday that “some good friends in film fraternity advised me to release the film on DTH and theatres at the same time to maintain a better ecosystem and give them both an equal status". He didn’t set a date for the movie’s release.

Film distributors and cinema hall owners threatened to boycott Vishwaroopam in protest against Kamal Haasan’s plan to show it on DTH on 10 January, a day before its theatrical release. Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka theatres also said they may not show the film.

The premiere of Vishwaroopam in Tamil on DTH was priced at 1,000 and the Hindi version (called Vishwaroop) at 500. It was to be screened on 10 January at 9.30pm. Kamal Haasan tied up with six DTH operators—Tata Sky, DishTV, Sun Direct, Airtel DTH, Videocon DTH and Reliance Big TV—for the premiere.

Kamal Haasan said the movie’s release had been postponed partly because theatres in Andhra Pradesh were unable to screen Vishwaroopam as they were committed to show new Telugu-language films around the same time.

He said the delay was also to allow more time for DTH subscribers to book the movie, which has been produced at a cost of 95 crore.

The star said he wanted to release the movie on DTH in order to adapt to new technology. The Tamil Nadu Theatre Operators Association and Distributors Association, which decided to boycott the film last Thursday, has some 1,200 cinema halls under its ambit.

Ashish Saksena, chief operating officer of multiplex chain Big Cinemas said, “There is no harm in trying for a new revenue source, but there is an agreed-upon process of revenue generation in which theatrical distribution comes first...There is a way in which revenues flow, especially for a prominent film like Vishwaroopam. Theatre owners are bound to raise objections."

The decision to postpone the movie premiere may have killed off a novel method of monetizing a film, said a DTH executive who didn’t want to be named.

Compared with the booking price that Kamal Haasan set for Vishwaroopam, the average price for a newly released movie on DTH is 75.

“With the postponement of the release date, viewers who did pre-booking will be disappointed and pricing will naturally have to be reworked," the executive said. None of the six operators disclosed the number of bookings for Vishwaroopam so far.

Over the years, the gap between the theatrical release and the DTH debut has narrowed significantly down to a week or two. DTH operators generally enter into a revenue-sharing arrangement with the producer based on the number of viewers who subscribe to the film.

However, some industry observers said the potential DTH audience for Vishwaroopam’s premiere would have been dwarfed by those in theatres, according to one DTH executive who did not want to be named.

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