The Tamil Film Active Producers Association (TFAPA), Qube Cinema and solutions and the Tamil Nadu Theatre and Multiplex Owners Association on Wednesday reached a temporary agreement to put the Virtual Print Fee (VPF) on hold and allow new Tamil films to be released.
They have decided on finding a permanent solution and “come to a longer-term arrangement” on the VPF issue by March 31, 2021.
According to the service providers, around three small budget films will be releasing towards the end of November, while roughly six small to medium budget films will be releasing in December. Service providers also aim for some big budget Tamil and Hindi film releases in January 2021.
“We have decided to keep aside the VPF fight and focus on releasing films and attracting the audience to the theatres now,” said Senthil Kumar, co-founder of Qube Cinema on Wednesday.
“Maybe once the Covid period is over, we will all sit together and agree. Now we have all agreed that we should concentrate on getting movies out of the door and getting audiences back rather than fight among ourselves,” he said.
VPF is the subsidy that is paid by a film distributor towards the purchase of digital cinema projection equipment by a film exhibitor. This stalemate between producers, digital service providers and theatre owners in Tamil Nadu has now been going on for 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 rate of VPF.
On November 9, the TFAPA had announced that they would not release any new films until the VPF issue was resolved. As the stalemate over VPF continued, producers said they were ready to release films but were facing pressure from their association.
On November 2, TFAPA head Bharathiraja announced in a press release that producers had decided not to release any new Tamil films until the deadlock over VPF gets resolved by theatre owners. This was after the service providers did not pay heed to five requests made by the TFAPA.
Asked if the decision to release films was decided keeping in mind the festive period of Pongal in 2021, Senthil said: “Partly that, but more importantly we saw that audiences are coming back even for a small movie when we released some during the Diwali time. With quite a few other movies in the pipeline, we thought it will be better for producers, for us and for theatres if we can get all these movies to come out one after the other in a regular fashion and get audiences to feel comfortable about coming back. So we wanted to somehow keep that string of movies coming and they also understood that that’s more important than fighting over five per cent here and there charges.”
A press release by the TFAPA said: “QUBE has agreed to reduce the current rate of the current fee to the members of the Tamil Film Producers Association.”
“We had already proposed something that was good, so they just have agreed on that. We can’t disclose the business details of it but it’s nothing different from what we had discussed earlier,” said Senthil.
“We will start discussing in January, maybe right after Pongal. I think movies will be then in a full flow and then we will all will sit together. The thing is the theatres will also sit together so that everyone can discuss mutually. There are many ways to solve it if it’s a mutual thing. After all we can reduce VPF but there can be a different sharing ratio where 2-3% of the collection goes to the theatres from producers directly and then theatres pay it to us as a rental. So there are many ways this can be amicably solved if the producers don’t want to pay it to us as a VPF,” said Senthil.
“But we have to see if there’s some relaxation in occupancy by the government. I do think that by Christmas time there will be some big Hindi releases, for Tamil definitely these medium and small movies will make audiences comfortable. So, Pongal is a good time for Tamil and maybe Christmas itself will be a good time for Hindi,” he said.
He added that big budget films are likely to release once the occupancy in cinema halls is permitted to be raised to 70%, from the current 50% limit.