VPF issue, a stumbling block for new movie releases this Diwali

NARAYANAN V Chennai | Updated on November 03, 2020 Published on November 03, 2020

This year popular stars are unlikely to release their films for Diwali anticipating poor footfall (file photo)   -  Bijoy Ghosh

Even as the Tamil Nadu government allowed theatres in the State to reopen after nearly eight months, the stand-off between producers and film exhibitors over the contentious virtual print fee (VPF) issue is likely to create a roadblock for release of new movies for Diwali.

In a major reprieve to theatre owners, the State government on Saturday allowed all single screen and multiplexes located in non-containment zones to reopen from November 10 with 50 per cent seating capacity.

However, the newly-created Tamil Film Active Producers Association (TFAPA), headed by filmmaker Bharathiraja, on Monday announced that there will be no new Tamil film release until the VPF issue is sorted out.

In a press release, Bharathiraja said that theatre owners and digital services providers (DSPs) have not heeded any of the five demands raised by the TFAPA earlier and hence all like-minded producers have unanimously decided not to screen any new films. Last month, TFAPA sent a five-point demand to the president of Tamil Nadu Theatre Owners Association to allow new movie releases. Primary among the demands is the abolishment of VPF charges, which the producers say they have borne on behalf of theatre owners for the last 10 years and can no longer do it. VPF is a charge paid by producers to DSPs such as QUBE and UFO. While producers are willing to pay one-time VPF charges for servicing their content for digital screening, they are contesting the VPF charges paid towards digital projectors which are theatre’s fundamental property. The charges range between ₹12,000-25,000 per screen depending on the scale of film and whether single screen/multiplex.

Diwali release

According to industry experts, more than 40 Tamil films including Vijay’s Master, Dhanush’s Jagame Thandhiram, Vikram’s much anticipated sci-fi mystery Cobra and many other small and medium budget movies are awaiting release.

Last year Diwali saw both Vijay’s Bigil and Karthi’s Kaithi collect more than ₹100 crore at box office. However, this year big stars are unlikely to release their films for Diwali anticipating poor footfall and seating capacity restrictions. Small budget films, which are often crowded out during festive season, will this time suffer due to producer - theatre owners stand-off.

Meanwhile, Tiruppur Subramaniam, the president of the Tamil Nadu Theatre Owners Association brushed aside the VPF issue as any threat to movie releases. “VPF will not be an issue for movie release. New films will hit the screens for this Diwali, no doubt about it,” Subramaniam told BusinessLine.

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Published on November 03, 2020
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