As the impasse between multiplexes and the producer-distributor combine entered its third week, collections plunged to a record low, the industry was reeling and there was no solution in sight.
“There has been no progress,” said trade consultant and analyst Amod Mehra. Cinema occupancies hit an all-time low of three to five per cent this month (all-India, in multiplexes and single-screens showing Hindi films). As a result, he said: “Multiplexes are bleeding, producers are losing time and money and the government is losing revenue. Even the samosawala inside the cinema and the sandwichwala outside have been hit hard.”
Some estimates put the daily loss for each multiplex at Rs 1.5 lakh a day, while the industry has around Rs 500 crore at stake.
The two sides have been bickering over profit-sharing since Fanaa released in 2006. Producers now insist on a 50-50 formula, regardless of the film’s collections, in place of the earlier 40 to 48 per cent depending on the film’s performance.
“Neither side can afford to carry on like this more than another two weeks,” said Mehra. “My bet is that [producers will blink first].”
However, Mukesh Bhatt, spokesperson for the United Producers and Distributors’ Forum, said: “Speculation about us settling for 45 per cent is untrue.”
Alok Tandon, CEO of Inox Leisure, countered: “If we make no money on films like Chandni Chowk to China, which ran to empty halls from the second day, how can we shell out 50 per cent?” Vishal Kapoor, COO, Fun Cinemas, said: “We spend Rs 20 lakh to Rs 30 lakh every month on fixed costs. Succumbing to producers’ demands would be suicidal.” Bhatt admitted: “We can’t hold films back forever.” So, the forum plans to “revive the single-screen and release films there”.