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Producers' Guild calls for empathy, solidarity as fault lines between producers and exhibitors widen

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The guild's statement came after the Inox multiplex chain's strong opposition to Gulabo Sitabo being released on an OTT platform.

Our Correspondent

A day after exhibitors spoke up against the decision by the producers of Gulabo Sitabo to move for a digital release, the Producers' Guild of India has stepped in to seek 'support' and 'empathy'.

In a statement, the guild said, "We are in unprecedented times, facing one of the greatest public health and economic emergencies of our lifetimes. This is a time for the entire film industry to come together with empathy and support for the difficult predicament that each of our constituents finds themselves in, from producers, distributors, exhibitors, daily-wage earners and technicians, to the thousands of people whose lives and livelihoods are in some way dependent on our industry."

Criticising the statement by the multiplex chain Inox Leisure Ltd warning filmmakers and producers of "retributive action", the guild said, "At a time like this, it is disappointing to see abusive and unconstructive messaging from some of our colleagues in the exhibition sector. Statements that call for 'retributive measures' against producers who decide to take their movies direct to OTT platforms, especially at a time when cinemas are unfortunately closed for an unforeseeable future, do not lend themselves to a constructive or collaborative dialogue on the way forward for the industry."

The guild said decisions to move directly for a digital release were the result of the lockdown, which has caused "hundreds of crores in losses on a daily basis". Pointing to the expense of elaborate sets left abandoned, rising interest costs on projects now in limbo, and multiple overheads for producers to pay, the guild said the uncertainty of theatres reopening in the post-lockdown future also led to the decision.

The statement said reopening of cinemas "is bound to be staggered across the country" and the film industry should prepare for "lower occupancies". The absence of a steady source of revenue from international theatrical rights has also affected producers greatly. 

Therefore, the guild said in its statement, "it is only natural that the producers who have already invested heavily in their films with theatrical revenue assumptions that are no longer feasible will seek out all avenues available to recover their investment and stay in business."

However, the producers also expressed clear and unequivocal support for the theatrical system, saying, "The Producers' Guild would like to emphasize that we are unequivocally and passionately supportive of the theatrical release of films, and a theatrical release will always be the preference for movies that were conceptualized as a cinematic experience. But these are unprecedented times for all the reasons mentioned above, and it is imperative to see things in that context."

Gulabo Sitabo has been followed by several films, including the Vidya Balan-starrer Shakuntala Devi, and some regional projects in moving for release directly on OTT platform Amazon Prime Video.

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