Theatres under the Film Exhibitors United Organisation of Kerala (FEOUK) have decided to go on a two-day strike on 7-8 June in protest against the early premiere of Malayalam films on OTT platforms in a short span of time.
The decision comes as the producers of 2018 (2023) and Pachuvum Athbutha Vilakkum (2023) agreed to premiere the films on OTT platforms, though they are doing good business in theatres, as against the 42-day window period.
Following this, the FEOUK has decided not to cooperate with producers who won’t agree with the 42-day window period.
This means that if a movie is premiered on OTT before 42 days of its release, the FEOUK will not exhibit the next film of the producer in theatres, a source said.
Joint meeting held
A joint meeting was held between FEOUK and Film Exhibitors’ Federation to discuss the issue of films being sold to OTT platforms on an agreement for a premiere before a month of theatre release. Earlier, FEOUK convened a meeting with the distributors and representatives from Kerala Film Producers’ Association.
In a press statement, the FEOUK reiterated that it has been decided earlier that films should be sold to OTT, after making an agreement that they would be screened only after 42 days of release. However, this agreement has not been taken into consideration by the producers of 2018 and Pachuvum Athbutha Vilakkum.
The two-day token strike is against the decision of producers, the FEOUK representatives said.
Liberty Basheer, who heads the Film Exhibitors Federation felt that premiering 2018 and Pachuvum Athbutha Vilakkum on OTT while they are doing extremely well in theatres will only put the theatre sector in crisis.
Films will continue to be screened in theatres under the Film Exhibitors Federation. However, cinema halls under the Exhibitors Federation won’t close as decided by FEOUK, he added.
2018 became a successful venture for its producers as it collected around ₹160 crore in 25 days. Also, it became the first movie to earn ₹100 crore in a record time of 10 days.
Meanwhile, the theatres under FEOUK promised to refund money to those who booked the tickets on 7 June and 8 June. Theatres like Aries Plex have already announced the same on social media.
Agreement done earlier
Reacting to the concerns of the theatre owners, 2018 producer Venu Kunnappily said the agreement for the OTT premiere was done three months ago.
Meanwhile, the movie’s premiere date has been extended by a week to 7 June since it is doing well in theatres.
The FEOUK, however, sought an explanation from the producers of 2018 and Pachuvum Athbutha Vilakkum for agreeing to an OTT premiere before 42 days of theatrical release.
Earlier, films made during Covid were given a time of 35 days for the OTT premiere.
Despite being made during the pandemic, 2018 and Pachuvum Athbutha Vilakkum registered good collections at the box office. Hence, their early OTT premiere has become a serious cause of concern for the theatre owners.
Jude Anthany reacts
In a Facebook post, 2018 director Jude Anthany Joseph said he respects the decision of the theatre owners. He wrote that he wanted the producers of his movie to be on the safe side and hence, he gave a green signal to Sony Liv for the OTT premiering.
Difficult times in Mollywood
Post-Covid, the Malayalam film industry is facing a serious crisis. Since the beginning of this calendar year, only Romancham and 2018 turned out to be superhits. Films like Pranayavilasam and Sulaikha Manzil, too, performed very well at the box office. But it wasn’t enough to keep the momentum of the industry.
Fahadh Faasil’s Pachuvum Athbutha Vilakkum saw good collections at the box office. But soon after the release of 2018, its collections fell. The movie was released on OTT on 26 May. It was released in theatres on 28 April.
While cinema halls are facing difficult times since people are awaiting OTT releases, producers aver that they are going for digital releases since they aren’t sure about theatrical revenues!
Meanwhile, the theatre owners in Kerala are planning to demand an increase in the OTT window period from 42 to 90 days.
According to FEOUK President K Vijayakumar, the government received ₹60 crore towards tax from the makers of 2018, a megahit.
The movie would have easily collected ₹200 crore if screened in theatres for a few more days. However, the theatre collections dropped as soon as the OTT release of the film was announced, he pointed out and urged the Kerala government to take the initiative with regard to increasing the OTT window period.
Also, he threatened that the theatres under FEOUK will go on indefinite strike if their demands aren’t considered in the next 20 days.
(This story has been updated with the latest information.)