As actor and film-maker Kamal Haasan stands his ground that his new film Viswaroopam will be premiered on the direct-to-home platform despite protest from various stakeholders, the Tamil Nadu Film Distributors Federation is all set to meet on Tuesday to take a call on this issue.

Already, the Tamil Nadu Theatre Owners Federation has protested saying that this initiative will certainly affect theatre revenues at a time when “the film exhibition business has already been going through a rough patch owing to a range of other issues”.

Earlier, the actor had defended his move to screen the movie on DTH networks on fixed-time show basis on the day before the film’s theatrical release, which is tentatively scheduled for January 11. The price per connection has also been fixed at Rs 1,000. He has said this move would be a new, legitimate revenue stream for the industry. His argument is that this would not affect the theatrical revenues as it is “targeted at a niche segment that wants to be entertained in the comfort of their homes”.

According to a industry veteran who does not want to be identified, “This move could even prove to be a trigger for the success of the movie, as it would only kindle interest among his fans to get the giant-screen experience.”

However, Abirami Ramanathan, President of the Tamil Nadu Theatre Owners Federation, asks why he should even try something which has not been experimented by Hollywood. “As theatre owners, we may not suffer any major losses because of this one film. But, if others too choose to follow this model, the entire exhibition business may have to suffer a huge setback,” he told Business Line.

Though Kamal Haasan says the move would be a blow to the piracy market, which is wrecking the industry, Ramanathan says this would only pave the way for more piracy. “If someone films the entire movie with an hand-held HD camera when the film is being played on an HD TV, the result will be pretty good; then how can that prevent piracy?” he asks.

According to industry sources, Kamal Haasan has signed up with five DTH players, who can collectively address at least 15 lakh homes in the State. And, there are instances, when some hit movies were exhibited on big screens (with the help of projectors) for a large audience of over 100, in public places such as clubs and playgrounds.

Harit Nagpal, Managing Director and CEO, Tata Sky, one of the DTH players signed on to premiere Viswaroopam (which cost over Rs 120 crore to make), says the technology offers only another opportunity to earn revenues from a new market. He told Business Line that it will, in fact, bring in a newer market to Tamil films as TV homes who are willing to pay up Rs 1,000 are not the kind who will queue up in cinema halls for tickets.

ravikumar.ramanujam@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on December 10, 2012)
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