The Bipasha Basu and Neil Nitin Mukesh movie Aa Dekhen Zara may be the first movie hit by the escalating battle between producers and multiplex owners. Producers have yet to agree terms with the multiplex owners over the movie and it could open in single screens only.
Producers are outraged that multiplex owners often demand up to 50% of revenue from a movie against the more traditional 20% asked by single-screen owners despite entry prices sometimes as much as five times the price in single-screen cinemas. They also object to the way multiplexes often adopt ‘corporate’ payment strategies making producers wait months before payment. “Multiplexes have not settled the deal on my film and they tried to blackmail us into doing a package deal of our future films Kambakht Ishq and Love Aaj Kal-to which we did not agree,” says Sunil Lulla, producer of Aa Dekhen Zara, “If they don’t settle the Aa Dekhen deal, we will go ahead and release it in single screens.”
Producers are also worried that the growth of multiplexes, which currently provide only 10% of screens in India, almost entirely in the big cities, will lead to greater piracy and illegal downloading as poorer people choose to pick up cheap copies of the movies. The multiplex companies have ambitious plans to expand outside of the cities very soon. The producers also maintain that there is a real danger of a small number of chains gaining control of the industry leading to fewer films and possibly even an increase in the number of Hollywood movies being shown.
The multiplex owners argue that they offer a different, more comfortable, all-round entertainment experience compared to traditional single-screen cinemas. This has clicked with the young urban generation who enjoy the experience which is reflected in the greater proportion of cinema visits they achieve compared to single-screen cinemas. They argue the higher percentage requested is fair as it pays for the overall experience — the film representing a smaller portion of that experience than previously. They also argue that their ambitious expansion plans to modernise the industry by bringing multiplexes to smaller towns and by investing in technology such as satellite transmission of movies to DVD projectors in cinemas will benefit the whole industry in the long term putting it on a par with the west.