The war against Multiplexes!

Little more than a decade ago, when the K S Ravikumar’s blockbuster Naataamai was released, I watched it in a dingy theatre in a Tier-III city with people shelling out money even ready to watch it sitting on the floors or on some almost-broken, cheap wooden furniture, which served as an excuse for chairs. Now, theatres like that are things of past, atleast, in the city. Welcome to the world of multiplexes where movie watching is redefined and entertainment is spelt with a big E.

The influence of multiplexes in the dictionary of a movie-goer is such that now there is a genre of movies targeting the ‘multiplex audience’. It probably coincides with the birth of the Indian Metrosexual man, but it is a fact that cannot be denied that multiplex audiences are necessarily urban, for where else other than the cities can one find multiplexes.

The demand comes more from the idea of ‘asking value for money’ than the other sophistications the multiplexes

seemingly offer. After all, people tend to put comfortable seats and hygienic conditions in toilets to different flavors of popcorn, fizzy colas and cream filled doughnuts. And since there’s not a huge difference between the ticket prices, (this does not include the multiplexes that hike the fares exorbitantly for new releases and issue measly amounts of popcorn and cola as compensation for fare-rise) why not watch it at the comfort of multiplexes, it is natural to think.

Besides, it’s also an undeniable fact that the run of few movies (intelligent or otherwise) depend on the urban audience, the ones who visit multiplexes precisely. As a result small time Tamil movies like Poi Solla Porom and M3V and even a mainstream movie like the Madhavan starrer Yavarum Nalam has had a decent run. Movies that tap the urban audience market are dime a dozen in Hindi with the recent example being the successful Dev D.

In related news, in the first week of April, a rare occurrence was witnessed by the media. No, it is not the selling bid of the Slumdog Millionaire kid Rubina Ali by her father that was caught red-handed in a sting operation by a British tabloid. The two king khans of Bollywood, Shahrukh and Aamir, came together announcing the industry’s joint decision to stop selling movies to the multiplexes that screen Bollywood movies. After displaying their fighting tactics often by taking potshots at each other in all visible forms of media including the blogosphere, the Khans finally appeared together wearing the best of their plastic smiles announcing the world that they don’t hesitate to put their past behind for a cause. It is also said in the media circles that Karan Johar’s intense negotiations with both the Khans has led to their joint public appearance.

Bollywood is furious with multiplex owners refusing to relook into revenue-sharing policies. Producers are demanding for a 50 share in the revenues from multiplexes, which the latter is refusing to oblige resulting in a gridlock of distribution and release of new Bollywood movies. Both sides seem to be stubborn which could further lead to a stagnation of new releases. Given the fact that Hindi films have an all-India reach, whether this crisis will cripple the industry or do good to boost its finances remains to be watched!

And for us, the regional audience, with the announcement of the soon to be launched PVR cinemas and other couple of multiplexes coming up, the oh-so-conservative Chennai will not be far behind from other metros in hosting multiplexes. By then, let us hope that our directors and producers would have tapped the potential of Tamil-speaking urban audience and that Tamil cinema would witness creative freedom breaking free from its budgetary constraints

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