Cinema theatres in Tamil Nadu reopened on Tuesday, after a gap of nearly eight months of closure due to the Covid-19 induced lockdown, but only few of them threw open their screens to fans as the issue of Virtual Print Fee (VPF) weighed in on them.
Among the theatres and multiplexes which reopened today, some offered contactless scanners and hand sanitiser dispensers as part of Covid-19 protocols. However, a majority of theatre and multiplex owners across the state have planned to reopen on Wednesday hoping the stalemate over the VPF issue between producers and digital service providers in the state would be resolved, facilitating the release of new films this Deepavali.
A tussle over VPF, a subsidy paid by a film distributor towards the purchase of digital cinema projection equipment, has been raging between producers, digital service providers and theatre owners in Tamil Nadu for many years now.
“Only a few theatres and multiplexes have reopened today and nearly 95 per cent have planned to reopen on Wednesday. Even we have decided to receive movie goers from tomorrow,” R Panneer Selvam, Rohini Silver Screens owner and
general secretary of Tamil Nadu Theatre And Multiplex Owners Association, told PTI.
Tamil Nadu reportedly has an estimated 1000 screens. Asked if the theatres will screen new releases this Deepavali, falling on November 14, a major revenue grossing season, he replied, “hopefully.” “We hope the VPA issue will be resolved by tomorrow and this could facilitate screening new releases for this festival,” Panner Selvam told PTI.
The state government, which has been easing lockdown curbs pertaining to various sectors, had recently allowed theatres to reopen from Tuesday, mandating a number of Covid-19 guidelines including capping the seating to 50 per cent of the capacity. Subsequently, theatre owners had carried out anti-covid activities including fogging operations to welcome movie goers after a break of nearly eight months.
Ega Cinemas here welcomed people with hand sanitisation units and contactless body heat sensor to check temperature. Another landmark multiplex complex, the SPI Cinemas, which has also displayed contactless temperature scanners and hand sanitisers, said those found with high temperature will not be allowed. Fans of top actor Ajith Kumar thronged Kasi theatre here to watch his earlier hit ‘Vedalam.’
Reacting to the VPF tussle, Qube Cinema co-founder Senthil Kumar said several producers were interested in releasing their films on Deepavali but were under pressure from the Tamil Film Active Producers Association (TFAPA). Qube is a digital cinema solutions provider. “It is our understanding that many producers are willing to release their new movies for this Deepavali but have been under immense pressure to conform to the TFAPA’s decision,” he said.
The decision to stop new releases during this “extremely difficult” time will affect all concerned. “Deepavali is a time when families traditionally go to see a new movie and the central and state governments had also supported the industry by permitting theatres to open with 50 per cent capacity in time,” he added.
Qube had already announced a 100 per cent waiver of VPF for film producers during November 2020 to facilitate the release of new films post lockdown relaxations.
Meanwhile, TFAPA president P Bharathiraja, also a noted diector, clarified that the association was not opposed to film producers or theatre owners. “Films are made to be released and our association stands for our members’ well-being. We hope for a favourable solution to the VPF issue,” he said and exuded confidence that the matter would be resolved soon.
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