Interviewer : Inian | Camera : Balaji | Text : Jyothsna Bhavanishankar
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Theatre owners Association President Paneerselvan's interview with

How is the trend of Tamil film?s business now?

Currently small budget films are not doing good business in the Tamil film industry and distributors are not ready to buy such films. As these films don?t have much of a draw, theatre owners do not show much interest in screening them. Big budgeted films do good business and there is no problem with regard to them.

Distributors talk of Higher, FH, MG and Share. What are they?

FH means fixed hire, that is, if a film is bought for a single run for Rs. 10 lakhs, it can be run for either 10 or 50 or 100 days from the date of release continuously. The money may not be given beyond this. Till the theatre owner gets collection for Rs. 10 lakhs he can run the film.

MG- For instance if Rs.10 lakhs is fixed as MG they talk as percentage on a weekly basis like 65% for 1st, 60% for 2nd, 55% for 3rd week etc. They will run the film till they get 10 lakhs. If they get more than 10 lakhs, 50% goes to the distributor and 50% goes to the theatre owner. As far as Chennai city is concerned, theater owners fix money on a weekly rental basis. This money goes to producer and distributor and there is no loss to theatre owner.

What is your take on the entry of corporates into the film industry?

Corporates are responsible for the deterioration of Tamil film industry. To get the call sheet of stars, they have jacked up their salary. This has majorly increased the production cost of films which was under control till the corporates entered the fray.

Corporates are responsible

for the deterioration of

Tamil Film Industry
On what basis do you buy films?

Films are bought on the basis of these parameters- the director, heroine, music director, the collections of the previous films of the hero etc. Rates are fixed based on the general buzz that is generated during the making of the film in the media.

It is only the theatre owners

who suffer

Is the system of MG still prevalent?

MG is certainly in for all the big heroes. Without MG the producers and the distributors don't sell the films as they get money for sure in these cases. It is only the theatre owners who suffer whenever there is loss

Is it not a dangerous trend?

It is not only dangerous but also a wrong process. Only the producer should vouch that his film will do good business. When a product is made, it is only the manufacturer who should guarantee that his product will be good and not the end user. It is illogical. Whereas it is only in the cinema industry that the opposite happens that of a theatre owner assuring that the film made by a producer will run well. The theatre

An irrational system has

been set up and

we are trapped
. owner is completely in the dark about how a film will be, how the direction is going to be or the scenes. Without the knowledge of any of these things, he has to give the guarantee. Such an irrational system has been set up and we are trapped. This is a bad example which does not happen in any industry anywhere in the world. This needs to be changed. A distributor only should give the guarantee that his film would do well and he should compensate for the losses incurred by the theatre owners.

Are you ready to share your losses as well as profits?

In today's trend when we get profit more than the MG, we are sharing it. Hence they are having a share in the profit. In the theatres following MG system they are taking the share in the profits and same is the case with theatres following percentage system. So, if they ask for share in the MG system they must also agree to share the loss with the theatre owners even if it is below MG amount. This is our request.

Whatever the MG we deposited we were given 35 percent of the money.

This film has two cinematographers - one is Soundar and the other is Gurudev and both of them come from P C Sreeram’s disciples, K V Anand and Jeeva. Soundar has worked with K V Anand and Gurudev has apprenticed under Jeeva. I am happy that both my cinematographers have an impressive pedigree and they have done a great job.

To demand money

from the producer

is not correct

Is it right to ask for the amount lost from the actors instead of the producers?

The MG is deposited only on the basis of stars, his acting capabilities, his previous success ratio and not producers; the film runs only due to stars and not because of producers. Every theatre owner invests his money only by keeping the hero in mind and that is how it happens everywhere. No theatre owner will invest his money by trusting on the producer. If a producer spends money lavishly on his film but chooses a small hero, even then we will not invest our money. We trust and invest our money only if a big hero or when a big director makes a film like for instance director Shankar who has impressive credentials. So in my opinion to demand money from the producer is not correct.

Earlier Mani Ratnam, Rajnikanth, Kamal, Suriya gave back the lost money because they were producers and not as actors. Is it right?

In Kuselan, Rajini was not a producer but an actor; in Baba alone Rajini was the producer. Same is the case with Mani Ratnam. MG is being given to Mani Ratnam?s films because he is an established director and not because he is a producer. His films have a special appeal in the industry. Even Mani Ratnam returned a part of the amount when Iruvar flopped. He returned our money even though we did not ask for it. It was a good gesture.

Film goers are not coming to theatres because of poor sanitation facilities and also ACs being switched off. Is it right?

Yes it is right. We have asked all the theatre owners to keep the bathrooms very clean and they are also doing it. And even in mofussil areas, the theatres are being upgraded now and we are working towards it.

There is no freedom of

trade now

During the release of big films the price of the tickets are more, why?

This is only due to MG. While paying the MG distributors and the producers force us to sell the tickets at a rate more than the fixed price during the first three days of the film's release. The producers and distributors doubt whether the film will be a hit or failure so they want to cover the money within the first few days of the film's release during festival days. Within the first two weeks of the film's release we must be given the right to fix whatever amount we want to. After two weeks the price can again be brought down. This proposal must be brought in again as the previous government had this rule. The production costs have risen. There is no freedom of trade now. The ticket money is not for theatre owner alone but also goes to the producer and distributor. 70% of the ticket cost goes to them in a Rs 30 ticket, only Rs 9 goes to theatre owner. In this nine rupee we have to spend for maintenance like salary, paying electricity bills etc. That?s why the number of theatres has come down from 2,400 to 1400 .

There is a feeling that only two big television channels hold the control of big films. Is it true?

No, it is wrong. No channel can control any theatres.

No channel can control

any theaters

We are asking Vijay only

on humanitarian grounds

On not buying Vijay's film and non co operating with him in future?

We are asking Vijay only on humanitarian grounds and we hope he would consider our request. It is not in my hands to show or not to show his next film. Our executive committee will decide on this. Whether to release Vijay's film and if it's released how it must be released will be decided next.

How is the relationship between the producers council and theatre owners association?

It is smooth. We are having a wonderful relationship. There is mutual cooperation.

Are you able to work freely?

So far, I have not been pressurized by anyone. All the theatre owners extend complete cooperation to all my efforts and I am very happy.

What is your special message

As the production costs have gone up, MG and ticket rates have increased. We appeal that salary of heroes, heroines and directors to be fixed as a percentage of the profit from the film (and not as salary as such) as this would facilitate their complete involvement in the film. If this happens, films will have a successful run and everyone will be happy. Even if the films don?t do too well, there will only be a marginal reduction in their salary. We

Only when theatres prosper,

film industry can grow

have communicated about this plea of ours to the Producer’s Council and they have also agreed to consider this. If this plan is implemented, Tamil film industry will flourish healthily for a long period. Otherwise, if the current scenario of MG continues, the number of theatres will further come down. As it is, the producers feel that there are no theatres available to screen small films but they don’t take any efforts for theatres to prosper. Only when theatres prosper, film industry can grow. We hope the producers heed to our request and reduce the salary of the stars and bring down the production cost. There should be involvement of the stars in the profit and loss and that’s when everyone can survive in this industry.
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