Days to go before theatres reopen in Tamil Nadu, the stalemate over the Virtual Print Fee (VPF) continues between producers and digital service providers in the state.
On Monday, the Tamil Film Active Producers Association (TFAPA) in a statement said the decision of not releasing any new films will continue until the VPF issue was resolved. Responding to this, Qube Cinema co-founder Senthil Kumar told Silverscreen India that many producers were interested in releasing their films on Diwali but were under immense pressure from the TFAPA.
“It is our understanding that many producers are willing to release their new movies for Diwali but have been under immense pressure to conform to the TFAPA’s decision. We are shocked at this unethical decision and condemn their attempt to organise a collective boycott at a time when theatres and digital service providers are most vulnerable,” he said.
The VPF has been an ongoing issue between producers, digital service providers and theatre owners in Tamil Nadu for many years now. Two years ago, the industry had come to a standstill for almost 50 days when the Tamil Film Producers Council and digital service providers could not come to a decision over the excessive price of VPF.
VPF is a subsidy paid by a film distributor towards the purchase of digital cinema projection equipment. This came into effect when film reels were replaced with the digital exhibition format.
Elaborating on the impasse, Senthil said: “Unfortunately, the TFAPA has made this decision to stop new releases during this extremely difficult time when theatres, as well as Qube and other digital service providers, have been shut for so many months and are suffering hugely. Diwali is a time when families traditionally go to see a new movie and the central and state governments had also supported the industry by permitting theatres to open with 50% capacity in time for Diwali.”
“Qube had already announced a 50% reduction in VPF rates during this period of reduced capacity but the TFAPA demanded more and forced us to agree to a 60% discount with the threat of blocking new releases. Even after we agreed to a 60% discount, they demanded that this lower rate continue indefinitely until they could negotiate an end to VPF. The TFAPA is essentially using this threat, of stopping new movies, to get concessions from theatres and digital cinema providers and dividing the film industry at a time when everyone should come together and ensure that cinema survives this difficult and unprecedented period,” he added.
Earlier in a press release, TFAPA head Bharathiraja had said that producers had come to this decision after service providers did not pay heed to five requests made by the TFAPA. He said that producers have agreed to pay only the one-time charge, which includes mastering, cloning, and delivering.
Among the five requests made, the TFAPA said that they were unwilling to bear the VPF to service providers Qube Cinema and UFO Moviez, which they had been doing for the last 10 years.
With the Tamil Nadu government allowing the reopening of cinema halls from Tuesday, most theatres have announced their opening with reruns of old releases, due to a continuing stalemate between TFAPA and digital service providers.
Currently, multiplexes such as PVR and SPI Cinemas in Chennai, Coimbatore, and Vellore are gearing up to open the theatres and screen reruns along with a couple of new releases. The multiplexes are also screening some new Hollywood releases, like The War with Grandpa.
With Diwali celebrations starting this weekend, it is yet to be seen whether any new Tamil films will see the light of the day.