Strikes are dime a dozen in South cinema, these days. The latest strike saw all the South producers uniting against Digital Service Providers in protest against the Virtual Print Fee levied by them. Producers contend that the DSPs have gone against their original promise of scrapping the fee, while the latter deem it an impractical demand. While the impasse looks set to come to an end in a day or two, it doesn’t change the gloomy reality that this is the third such strike in Tamil cinema during the last year.
They may all be deemed necessary by the affected parties, but you have to wonder, are they taking cognisance of the bigger picture?These are bleak times for the vast majority of those in the film business. That now-familiar demon, piracy, is very much on the prowl. Ticket prices haven’t got any lower. Families are increasingly happy to remain in the comforts of their homes, with streaming services happy to attend to their leisure time. A recent survey has shown that digital entertainment revenue is on its way to surpass the film industry’s revenue by 2020. The theatre shutdowns may be a useful negotiation strategy for the parties concerned, but there’s no question that people are getting increasingly used to a life without cinema theatres.
Also, interestingly, none of these protests really address the elephant in the room. If producers are serious about finding a solution to their financial woes and the ever-increasing cost of making films and getting them released, perhaps a good place to start would be to revisit the exorbitant salaries paid to stars. The last year or two has shown that star power isn’t all it’s touted to be—stars can’t make horrible films work anymore. VPFs may be a necessary battle, but are these battles coming at the expense of the war? Are the decimals in close focus blocking the lion’s share? It seems producers are wary of antagonising the stars, who are still seen as the prime movers. Meanwhile, the real stars—the audiences—are moving on.