The Tamil film industry has finally ended the embargo on new releases and film shoots, reports suggested. The strike was called on March 1 to protest a host of issues affecting the revenue share of producers, especially the rate of the Virtual Print Fee charged on the digital distribution of films through multiplexes and single screens.
A decision on when films will be allowed to be released will be taken on Wednesday. Among the numerous films affected by the strike is the Rajinikanth-starrer Kaala. Directed by Pa Ranjith, the Mumbai-set film is now likely to be released in June.
Among the issues raised by the Tamil Nadu Film Producers Council that spearheaded the strike was the payment made to digital service providers, who make it possible for films to be projected in cinemas. Producers demanded that DSPs should be charging lower VPF rates. Producers also complained that the maximum possible ticket rate, which was fixed by the state government at Rs 120, had increased to roughly Rs 160 after the General Sales Tax regime and a Local Body Entertainment Tax came into existence.
“In 2012, the total percentage of digital screens was 50 percent,” producer Dhananjayan Govind told The Indian Express. “Producers were paying Rs 50,000 for traditional prints back then. So when we were introduced to digital copies where cost was Rs 15,000 for its lifetime run, several people started accepting it. But now, it has become Rs 15,000 for a week. It is important to consider that print copies are an asset to the producer. Once the run is complete, it is returned to the producer. Digital copies are theatre-specific. Say if a film runs for 3 weeks, the cost is equal to a print copy but we have no ownership over the copy. Also with print copies, the machine used to be owned by the theatres. We used to pay to screen our content. Now, we are being asked to pay for the machine as well.”
Yet another demand was the rate charged for E cinemas, which use 1K projection, and D cinemas, which are enabled with 2K facilities. A 2K-enabled cinema has higher resolution than 1K, and is better equipped to screen, for instance, 3D films. The Tamil film producers pointed out that since at least 60% of the cinemas in the state had 2K projection, their running costs had increased.
According to industry watchers, among the decisions taken by the council after meetings with theatre owners and DSP representatives are computerised ticketing, flexible ticket pricing depending on a movie’s budget, and a reduction in VPF by digital service producer Qube for 1K cinemas.