Producers support Ronnie Screwvala after he drags multiplexes to court over Virtual Print Fee (VPF)

Producer Ronnie Screwvala recently filed a case with the Competition commission of India (CCI) against four-multiplex chains – PVR, Inox, Cineplois and Carnival cinemas, and the FICCI Multiplex association of India, against the allegedly unjust imposition of Virtual Print Fee (VPF).

VPF was introduced to help multiplexes make the transition towards digital cinema, that would eventually help reduce cost, curb piracy and enhances the movie-viewing experience. Because the technology was costly, everybody agreed that the multiplex chains would charge ₹20,000 per screen for each movie for five years to recover that cost, beginning 2010.

In his petition the filmmaker has complained that multiplexes forcibly make Indian film producers/distributors pay Rs 20,000 for every film screened in every theatre as VPF. The producer points out that Hollywood movies, even dubbed versions, are exempt from VPF which gives them a competitive advantage over domestic films.

Indian producers on an average have to pay Rs 2-3 crore as VPF if they want to release on 1000-1500 screens

Now that’s definitely not a small amount.

Ever since Ronnie Screwvala has moved court against VPF, lot of producers have come out in support of Screwvala.

“The VPF cost was meant to recover the cost of transition to digital projection, it’s not anyone’s right to collect that money for eternity from distributors and producers. That’s like highway robbery,” Amod Mehra, independent distributor.

“There is merit in Ronnie’s stand against the system. We should stand together and support each other in creating a fair and ethical working environment,” Dinesh Vijab, producer.

“I thank Ronnie for taking a huge step ahead. VPF is an expense that hurts producers. It’s waived off in several progressive countries. It affects the success ratio of a film, and needs to be reduced substantially if not eliminated completely. The industry must support Ronnie’s move,” Jayantilal Gada, producer.

“What was started to aid a change has now become a habit. Smaller and content-backed films will not be able to release or sustain if the fee is continued,” Anand Pandit, producer.

“The Southern film industry stood firmly against the imposition of a hefty VPF amount. There is not much unity here, I hope more producers join forces with him, because it is not his problem alone,” Rajesh Thadani, independent distributor.

“VPF was meant to ensure we all evolve together but its hurting now. Its a massive cost which has to be recovered for a film to be called a hit,” Ramesh Taurani, producer.

“Though the matter is sub judice, Ronnie Screwvala has taken a huge initiative. With them, you can complaint anonymously, but Ronnie didn’t do it that way,” Hansal Mehta, producer-director.

INOX bans Ronnie’s films…
INOX hit back at Ronnie (for going to court) by banning his films, the chain refused to show his latest film, Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota, unless he withdrew his complaint.

However, Screwvala says complaints filed with CCI cannot be withdrawn. Besides, seeking redressal from a forum is his “constitutional right”. He questions why INOX did not ban his film “Uri: The Surgical Strike” (because it is making good money for them).

The film industry is keenly following this space; we will keep you posted.