The revenue-sharing tussle between producers and multiplexes has cost the owners of movie theatres dear. With no big releases and the Indian Premier League (IPL) fever on, multiplexes are incurring 50 percent losses due to low footfalls.
"The business is very down and collections have plummeted over 50 percent. We are extending certain content out of compulsion because there is no new content. Moreover IPL is aggravating the problem in terms of footfalls," Sakshi Mehra, an exhibitor and president of the Motion Pictures Association of Delhi-Uttar Pradesh said.
"We are in a serious situation until we get fresh films and quality content, which has not been flowing in since the beginning of the year when the strike was not effective. In fact, even the single screens are suffering because of the dispute," he added.
Mehra, who also owns the IP multiplex in Varanasi and several single-screen theatres across Uttar Pradesh, is considering playing old hits like Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Chak De! India and Rang De Basanti to attract audiences.
Some exhibitors are trying to keep the ticket window buzzing by playing re-runs of popular Hindi and English movies including Jodhaa Akbar, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, Dhoom 2, Life...in a Metro, Transformers, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Mr. Bean's Holiday, Razzle Dazzle and Marley and Me.
There are cinema hall owners who are stretching available content like Confessions of a Shopaholic, Little Zizou, Aloo Chaat, Delhi-6, Dev D, Firaaq and Videsh - Heaven on Earth. Audiences can get to watch a bevy of regional movies, specially south Indian films including Kotha Bangaru Lokam, Chintakayala Ravi, Venkata in Sankata and Aakashmantha, to name a few.
Industry sources predict that the six major multiplexes in the country namely PVR, INOX, BIG cinemas, Cinemax, Fun and Fame are set to lose close to Rs 300 crore (Rs.3 billion) collectively if no new films play in the first quarter (April-June).
The combined fixed cost losses for all multiplexes counting mall rentals, salaries, and electricity charges for the first quarter is expected to be around Rs 140 crore in case the dispute is not resolved, the sources said.
The problem started in February when multiplexes asked for 50 percent revenue share of a movie and producers refused. As a result, the united producers and distributors forum decided early March not to push any new releases in multiplexes. In a statement issued to the press, producers and distributors said that they have decided to suspend marketing and distribution of all films set to release after April 4, 2009.
Munish Sharma, general manager (marketing) of Satyam Cineplexes, however, blames the IPL more than the strike for low business.
"The strike did have an impact but it is the IPL series that is the main reason for the drop in ticket sales as most filmmakers had already decided to postpone their releases during the IPL season," Sharma said.
But Joginder Mahajan, a Delhi-based distributor, disagreed with Sharma and held the producers' strike responsible for the losses.
"IPL is not the main reason for the losses. The impact on the ticket sales is a result of the ongoing tussle between producers and multiplexes. Why would people spend so much money to watch old films?" Mahajan asked.
He also said that many multiplexes like "PVR and BIG cinemas" are keeping some "screens off" as cost-cutting measures.
"Most multiplexes are keeping at least one of their screens on off-mode and are also cancelling some of their morning and night shows due to cost-cutting," he claimed.