MUMBAI: History repeats itself in Bollywood. We remember, last year Ajay Devgn had approached the Competition Commission of India (CCI) stating that Yash Raj Films (YRF) had violated the competition rules by forcing a ‘bundle deal’ of ‘Ek Tha Tiger’ and Shah Rukh Khan starrer ‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan’ on theatre owners. Ironically, this time UTV Motion Pictures is allegedly using the same strategy to garner more revenue.
Sources reveal that UTV Motion Pictures has decided to club ‘Himmatwala’ and ‘Chennai Express’ for single screen theatres to edge out Akshay Kumar’s ‘Once Upon a Time In Mumbai-2’
Shah Rukh Khan’s announcement about ‘Chennai Express’ releasing alongside Akshay Kumar’s ‘Once Upon a Time In Mumbai-2’ on 8 August 2013, reportedly led to a full-blown war between the two actors! And then, insiders reveal that UTV Motion Pictures put across a condition to all the single-screen theatre owners that they can buy Ajay Devgn’s ‘Himmatwala’ on 27 March 2013 only if they guarantee to devote all the four shows to ‘Chennai Express’ in August!
Looks like Yash Raj Films has set quite a trend amongst the production houses. Pinky Badlani of ‘Kasturba Talkies’ in Malad, Mumbai, confirmed the development saying: “Yash Raj has set the trend. Now, UTV is doing it. It seems they just want to kill the prospects of Once Upon a Time In Mumbai- 2”
When asked if it was fair to put forth such conditions regarding film releases. One of the leading distributors told our sources: “Festive season or otherwise, ideally no two big films should release on the same day. Business suffers across multiplexes and single screens. In this case, it will all depend on how many shows each film manages to get in single screens. If UTV has its way, Balaji Telefilms will lose about Rs 2.5 Crore.”
Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association, Vice-President, Nitin Datar agreed: “At the end of the day, every exhibitor will decide after weighing all the pros and cons; frankly, such rules should not be laid down by any production house.” he said. But while Datar refuses to call UTV’s action as ‘blackmail’, he does not condone the strategy either.
UTV Motion Pictures, Director, Gaurav Verma denies the alleged use of any strategy. Says Verma, “This is not true at all. We enjoy long and mutually beneficial relationships with all our exhibition partners, and as a studio we have developed these relationships over the years with a steady supply of high quality content. There is no need at all for us to link the screening of one of our films with another, especially with films of the scale and magnitude of ‘Himmatwala’ and ‘Chennai Express’.”
On the other hand Tanuj Garg, CEO of Balaji Telefilms chose not to comment.
One can only hope that the industry works out a better system for distribution of its films.