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South Indian movie makers on strike in protest against digital service fee

Tamil, Telugu film producers on indefinite stir; Kannada and Malayalam protest only for one day

T E Narasimhan  |  Chennai 

Theatre

With no let up in the spat between film financiers and over the latter's print fee, the in Chennai has taken a call not to release any new films starting today (Friday, March 2). Theatre owners, however, have decided to continue screening movies, in a move that has divided the fraternity.

Meanwhile, producers in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh had already decided to go on an indefinite strike starting Thursday, while the Kannada and Malayalam film industries have decided to observe a one-day strike only.

In a February 27 report, Business Standard had indicated the possibility of a strike by movie producers across southern India over the issue of exorbitant fees. (Click here to read the article)

Film makers are protesting against what they feel is an exhorbitant virtual print fee, or VPF, charged by digital distribution companies. The VPF is essentially a subsidy paid by a film distributor to digital distribution companies.

Theatre owners, who do not have their own projectors, hire them from and pay a ‘digital print fee’. The claims that it is the movie makers who are forced to pay the fee, instead of the theatre owners.

Abirami Ramanathan, president, Tamil Nadu Theatre Owners and Distributors Association, says over 900 theatres in Tamil Nadu will remain open and will screen whatever films are given to them.

Responding to a media query on why the theaters have not shutdown, he said,

“They (producers) are not really going on strike. If they were, they would have closed down production, labs, everything. But everything is going on, except release of films. So when the entire industry is working, why should theatres alone be forced to close? As far as theatres are concerned, there is no dispute with the service providers. The Film Producers Council has an issue. They haven’t even requested us to do a token shutdown.”

S R Prabhu, Treasurer of Tamil Film Producers Council, however responded to this saying, “We tried to reach out to them but things didn’t work out.”

AP & Telangana halls to shut completely

in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh will stop screening films indefinitely, demanding reduction in the VPF levied by (DSPs) for southern regional language movies.

A decision to this effect was taken at a meeting of the in Hyderabad on Thursday, according to media reports.

“The shutdown will continue till the DSPs bring down the VPF and eventually make it zero for southern regional language films, on par with English movies,” convenor and producer and distributor Daggubati Suresh Babu told reporters.

Distributors and producers of the five states - Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana -- decided to form a joint action committee (JAC) to continue their agitation against the 'adamant attitude' of DSPs such as UFO Moviez, Qube Cinema Technologies and PXD in continuing the VPF, ever since film screening technology changed from celluloid prints to digital format via satellite.

The DSPs had been charging Rs 22,500 per screen as VPF for a regional film. Film makers claim that since the DSPs have monopolised the technology, they have been charging hefty fees that have become a big burden for distributors. “As per the agreement, the DSPs are supposed to phase out the VPF gradually and bring it down to zero. But they are not doing it,” Suresh Babu alleged.

First Published: Fri, March 02 2018. 12:36 IST
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