Hindi Films’ Strike: Reasons behind the deadlock

MUMBAI: After innumerable rounds of musical chairs between multiplexes and producers – distributors, the meeting that everyone was banking on was the one which took place this Monday (18 May).

There was an underlying feeling that things would be sorted out at this meeting with the presence of multiplex owners like PVR’s Ajay Bijli and Cinemax’s Rashesh Kanakia along with Adlabs’ Anil Arjun, who have prior to this not been present in previous meetings apart from Fame India’s Shravan Shroff, Inox Leisure’s Deepak Ashar and Fun Cinemas’ Atul Goel. Representing the United Producers and Distributors Forum were Mukesh Bhatt, UTV’s Ronnie Screwvala, Yash Raj Films’ Sahdev Ghei, Eros International’s Nandu Ahuja and Studio 18’s Aman Gill.

While the 50:50 revenue sharing terms for the first week were agreed upon, the bone of contention was the second and third week. Producers wanted terms, which were a notch higher than the 42.5 and 32.5 that were offered. Moreover, at an earlier meeting, while multiplexes had agreed to let producers decide the distribution strategy, the issue cropped up again at the meeting that was held on 5 May.

Last weekend, the core committee of the producers and distributors met with Yash Chopra, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Aditya Chopra, Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan at Yash Raj Studios and then headed out to the Sun & Sand hotel in order to brief the rest of the producers and reach a consensus on the situation. The outcome was that they should not succumb to the multiplexes’ demands on the distribution strategy.

Just when both parties were getting closer to agreeing on the revenue sharing terms for Hindi movies, the issue of distribution strategy reared its head. Now the situation looks grim, to say the least and has resulted in a deadlock.

Producers are rooting to chalk out their own distribution strategy for movies, which is the norm worldwide. On the other hand, multiplexes want the content for all their properties, thus increasing the burden of print cost on the producers and in turn hampering the success of smaller films.

According to information available with Businessofcinema.com, multiplexes put forth a point that they would convert their analog screens to digital, which will take care of the print cost. However, while producers were ready to release their big movies in all the screens, they did not feel the same about smaller films as these need a different release strategy in order to be successful.

“Giving the multiplexes the right to distribute films will kill the distribution business. If multiplexes think they can do distribution, then they should pay minimum guarantees. Moreover a big budget movie and a small budget movie cannot have the same distribution strategy,” said a person close to the development.

The Monday meeting ended with the producers calling off all revenue share negotiations that were made till date if multiplexes did not get back to them by Tuesday evening, which did not happen. It seems as if the problem is back to square one.

In the meanwhile, individual producers are gearing up to release their movies in single screens from next week (29 May) onwards. The first movie to hit screens will be producer Vashu Bhagnani’s Kal Kissne Dekha, which also marks the debut of his son Jackky Bhagnani as an actor.

As losses surmount for industries directly related to the film business, the strike has also wreaked havoc with ancillary industries like television, media, home video, music, radio and news etc, which are highly dependent on movie content.

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