Vinod Kumar, the producer of Enemy, the upcoming Vishal and Arya starrer, has alleged that Udhayanidhi Stalin‘s banner Red Giant Movies is forcing theatre owners to allot maximum screens for Annaatthe during Diwali, leaving very few screens for his film.
Speaking to Silverscreen India, Vinod said that one Shenbagamoorthy of Red Giant Movies has been primarily making this push with exhibitors. His statement comes days after he released an audio clip, claiming that the Rajinikanth-starrer has roped off most of the theatres in Tamil Nadu.
In the audio clip that went viral, he is heard saying, “Even after Hotstar gave me a good offer, I wanted Enemy to release in theatres. In the case of a big festival like Diwali, when two films release with 100% seat occupancy, in just four days, both the films can make enough profit.” Stressing on the importance of not creating a monopoly in theatres, Vinod also says he requires 250 screens to run his film and adds that he is confident he can make a profit from that. The producer further announced that he will fight against all those involved, if he does not get the screens he asked for.
Enemy, starring Vishal, Arya and Mrinalini Ravi, is written and directed by Anand Shankar. The film is bankrolled by Vinod’s Mini Studios.
Rajinikanth’s Annaatthe, on the other hand, features a large star cast, including actors such as Nayanthara, Keerthy Suresh, Prakash Raj, Soori, Meena, and Kushboo, among others. The film is written and directed by filmmaker Siva, and backed by Kalanidhi Maran’s Sun Pictures.
Red Giant Movies recently bagged the Tamil Nadu distribution rights of Annaatthe. The production and distribution company is owned by actor-politician Udhayanidhi Stalin, who is a member of the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly representing the ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) party.
However, Vinod told Silverscreen India that Shenbagamoorthy, in forcing theatre owners to screen only Annaatthe, has been working behind the backs of TN Chief Minister MK Stalin and his son Udhayanidhi. “The chief minister and Udhayanidhi Stalin are not aware that this is happening. I will approach them and report what is happening if I do not get enough screens,” he said.
“The producers of Annaatthe want all the theatres to screen their film. In cinema, only if there are healthy ethics, can we all prosper. Two films can release on Diwali and both make comfortable profits. Enemy should get 250-300 screens and Annaatthe should get around 700 screens. There is no need for them to have any more,” Vinod added.
Silverscreen India reached out to Red Giant Movies for comment but did not receive a response.
Tamil Nadu Theatre and Multiplex Owners’ Association president Tirupur Subramaniam, however, dismissed Vinod Kumar’s worries and said that theatre owners are yet to sign films to screen. “The screen allocation will be confirmed this month-end. Only then will we know the exact screen allocation for both films. He (Vinod Kumar) will easily get the 200-300 screens he has asked for,” he told Silverscreen India.
Subramaniam also dismissed rumours that actor Sivakarthikeyan‘s recent Tamil film Doctor was pulled out of many theatres early in order to accommodate the Raashi Khanna and Arya-starrer Aranmanai 3. “Both those films are running successfully in theatres now. It is the individual choice of the theatre owners to decide which film to run. They choose depending on their preference,” he said.
It is to be noted that Aranmanai 3, whose distribution rights are again owned by Red Giant Movies, has 151 shows listed in Chennai on BookMyShow for Sunday, October 31. On the other hand, Doctor has 246 shows listed for the same day.
For Diwali this year, aside from Annaatthe and Enemy, several other films are also lined up for a theatrical release, including Marvel‘s Eternals and the Hindi film Sooryavanshi. While actor Silambarasan‘s Maanaadu was previously scheduled to hit screens on November 4 as well, the makers of the film postponed the release date to November 25. They had announced that the reason behind the change was to avoid incurring any losses for distributors and theatre owners due to Maanaadu being released alongside other big films. The decision, however, did not go down well with Silambarasan’s parents, who petitioned the Chennai city police commissioner to look into the matter.
Silverscreen India also spoke to a couple of other theatre owners to find out which movies they plan to screen for Diwali.
Ruban Mathivanan of GK Cinemas confirmed to Silverscreen India that he will be screening both Annaatthe and Enemy for Diwali. “He (Vinod Kumar) might think that since Annaatthe is a big-budget film, most of the screens would go to them. But for a festival, we can easily accommodate two films. Both the films can get ample number of screens,” he said, adding that he is yet to sign films for any of his six screens.
Rakesh Gowthaman of Vettri Theatres said that if Annaatthe does get more screen allocation than Enemy, it will likely be because of its star value. “If there is very little screen allocation for Enemy, it is only because Annaatthe is a Rajinikanth film more than anything else. Any Rajinikanth film comes with high expectations. While single-screen theatres may not be able to screen both the films, theatres like ours – with two or more screens – can accommodate both Annaatthe and Enemy,” he told Silverscreen India.
Rakesh also clarified that he has not received any pressure to screen any particular film. He added, “I have two screens. I can probably allot two shows for Enemy because we have Eternals coming up as well.”
Tamil weekly magazine Vikatan, however, hinted in its gossip column that the distribution rights of Annaatthe were bought by Red Giant Movies through intimidation. According to Vikatan, a deal was made between the ruling party (DMK) and the makers of Annaatthe to give the distribution rights of the film to Red Giant Movies in return for permitting 100% seat occupancy in Tamil Nadu theatres – a move that will maximise the profits for the film.
This is not the first time the DMK has been accused of using its political power in the state for monetary gains in the film industry. According to a 2011 The Economic Times article, the DMK had dominated the Tamil film industry during its previous reign with the three major production houses run by the party’s associates – Kalanidhi Maran’s Sun Pictures, Udayanidhi Stalin’s Red Giant Movies, and Dayanidhi Alagiri’s Cloud Nine Movies.
An unnamed film producer was quoted by Economic Times as saying, “The trio know how to get producers and movie makers into their net. They ensure that the movies are released only through them and no other distributor comes to their rescue. In the last three years, all the big movies that hit screens were released by one of these groups.”
A 2011 Business Line article reported that none of the small and medium-budget films could be released back then as theatres were “not available” for screening films other than those produced by the ‘big’ producers.
As per the Economic Times article, when former CM Karunanidhi was questioned in 2010 about his family dominating the Tamil film industry, he had reportedly retorted, “When Prithvi Raj Kapoor’s family can still thrive in the film world, when Rajnikanth’s daughter can produce movies and his son-in-law Dhanush can act, what is wrong in my family working in the film world?”
(This article was modified after publication to remove a quote from Cinemania)