It’s official. Santa Claus is not coming to a cinema near you in Kerala. Well, not to watch a movie in any case.
As per reports, major crisis brewing in the state between exhibitors on one side and producers and distributors on the other over revenue sharing has created a deadlock in the industry. This essentially means that no new movie will be released during the upcoming festival season.
While the Malayalam film industry has witnessed protests and strikes before as well, the issues have been usually resolved. This time, however, the different interest groups refused to budge from their demands even after the intervention of Minister of Culture A. K. Balan.
As a result, the big Christmas releases scheduled to hit the screens over the December 23 weekend – Mohanlal’s “Munthirivallikal Thalirkkumbol”, Prithviraj’s “Ezra”, Dulquer Salmaan’s “Jomonte Suvisheshangal” and Jayasurya’s “Fukri” – have all been postponed indefinitely.
So what are the different interest groups demanding? Producers and exhibitors usually share a 60-40 ratio when it comes to profit sharing. The exhibitors, especially those who run the small screens want a 50% share, which is unacceptable to the producers. The producers are claiming they are already suffering heavy losses.
The battle has essentially boiled down to two strong interest groups – the Malayalam Film Producers Council and Distributors Association versus the powerful Kerala Film Exhibitors Federation (KFEF) led by the controversial Liberty Basheer.
Basheer, who controls a large number of single screens in the Malabar area – accounting for nearly 45% of the box office business, also wants parity with the multiplexes when it comes to the net box office earnings.
The battle is also symptomatic of a larger fight for control going on in the Malayalam Film Industry. With the cinema scene witnessing a boom in the last few years, major multiplexes have opened their own screens in the state. Old halls, traditionally run by the government, are also getting twin or triple screens with the latest technology involved, to attract the growing audience, resulting in a struggle for both money and audiences.
The audiences, though, are going to be the biggest victims of this power struggle. Christmas season usually generates the highest footfall in Kerala theatres, and in the absence of any release, the audiences will have to make do without any film cheer.