Tough times for Tollywood

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Tough times for Tollywood

These are troubled times for the Telugu film industry, which is bearing the brunt of several issues all at once. On the one hand, theatre owners are planning to shut shop from March 1 onwards to protest against digital service providers who, they allege, are charging high service charges. On the other hand, the Telugu Film Producers Council was recently dissolved and an adhoc committee was appointed to look into the various matters.

Though the committee proposed not to release dubbed films during Sankranti and Dasara, Suriya's film Gang is still slated for a Sankranti release. Film budgets too are going sky high with all the top stars asking for high remunerations. Naturally, to recover the costs, producers are planning to hike ticket prices and have benefit shows.

High service charges
“Yes, we are planning to shut down the theatres from March 1st onwards,” says Murali Mohan Rao, President of the Telangana Exhibitors Association and also the Telangana Film Chamber of Commerce. He adds that the rates are abnormal and that the exhibitors are completely in loss because of high service charges. 
“Earlier, there was only the print format and we used to use the projector to screen the film. Now, it’s digital everywhere. So, some third party investors came in and installed digital projectors for which they are charging high service charges,” complains Murali Mohan. 

Not only do each of the projectors cost approximately Rs 50 to 60 lakhs, the distributor or theatre owner is unable to control the service providers as they constitute a third party.  Meanwhile, there are rumours that Allu Aravind’s family is a big business provider of digital projection and that he is controlling it.

Industry in the hands of a few
Several other problems plague the Telugu film industry currently.  Producer C. Kalyan says that a few people are controlling the industry by blocking the theatres. 

“A few distributors are holding the distribution and theatres and not allowing new persons to enter the industry,” accuses C. Kalyan without naming anybody. But it is clear that he is targeting Dil Raju, Sunil Narang, Allu Aravind and Suresh Babu, who are the top producers and distributors today.

Responding to these allegations, Sunil Narang says, “It’s completely false. Earlier, the producers and distributors had a mutual understanding, but now, it's not like that. A few distributors like R.R. Movie Makers entered the industry but incurred huge losses and disappeared. If the film fails, the producer is not sharing the burden and it falls entirely on the distributor.” He adds that the coming days will be very difficult if the present distributors were to close their offices. “I am providing theatres equally to all films,” says Sunil.

No unity among producers
“There is no unity among the producers in the industry. Whoever is strong comes up when their film is ready for release, but they do not address the problems of the industry. They are only trying to bail out their film, that’s it,” says Murali Mohan Rao. There are also rumours that ticket rates are going to be hiked. “I don't know about the other theatres, but in my theatres, I hiked ticket prices by only Rs 18 keeping the GST in mind,” says Sunil.

Release of dubbed films
There is no control on the release of dubbed films either. Interestingly, dubbed films are largely released only in Telugu from Tamil and other industries, which in turn, grab the Telugu market. “The Producers Council opposed releasing dubbed films especially during festivals and functions, but some people were against it,” says Sunil, who has bought the Telugu distribution rights of Rajinikanth-starrer 2.0 for a high amount and is planning to release it on April 27th.

Easy availability on other channels
The other problem is that many of the newly released films are available on different channels like Amazon for watching within a few weeks after release. Due to this, theatre going audiences are reduced as they watch the film at home with their family free of cost. “We are asking producers not to sell the rights of their films to screen on these private channels within a few weeks. We have asked them to extend the gap for a few months after it releases in theatres,” says Suresh Babu.

Meanwhile, ticket prices are not increasing in Telangana as distributors have decided to retain the same price.

“Yes, we are not going to hike the ticket price. We will retain the same Rs 100 plus GST whereas in Andhra, they have hiked ticket prices to Rs 200 per ticket,” says Dil Raju, who has bought the Nizam distribution rights of Pawan Kalyan-starrer, Agnyaathavaasi. 

“We are providing entertainment to the people of Telangana at a normal ticket price,” he adds.


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