'Apes' Extinct in Indian Multiplexes Over Revenue Sharing Terms

Twentieth Century Fox

A breakdown over revenue-sharing terms between multiplexes and Fox Star Studios has led to the Freida Pinto-starrer only releasing on single screens in India.

NEW DELHI – India's Hollywood cross-over star Freida Pinto won't be seen on multiplex screens as her latest film Rise of the Planet of the Apes has only opened in single screen cinemas nationwide this weekend.

A breakdown in revenue sharing terms between the film's distributor Mumbai-based Fox Star Studios and the Multiplex Association of India (representing major chains such as Big Cinemas and PVR Cinemas) has led to multiplex screens not opening the film Friday.

Typically, including single screens and multiplexes, major Hollywood releases with dubbed versions open here with between 400-700 prints. To make up for the lack of multiplex screens, FSS expanded Apes to 450 single screens nationwide (including dubbed prints) that FSS claims is double the number of single screens for any Hollywood title here.

By contrast, FSS' recent release X-Men: First Class opened in 250 single screens in addition to multiplex screens.

The tussle over revenue terms between producers and multiplexes goes back to 2009, which resulted in a strike by Indian film producers until an agreement was hammered out between both parties. The agreement – which expired on June 30 – finalized a profit sharing equation where producers would get 50 percent of the opening weekend revenues followed by 42.5 percent in the second week, 37.5 percent in the third week and 32.5 percent in the fourth week.

Following the agreement's expiry, revenue terms were once again open to negotiation. Industry observers have speculated that multiplexes are now demanding an increase in their revenue shares which would mean a revision of producers' shares at 45 percent in the first week, 37 percent in the second week, 32.5 percent in the third week and 25 percent in the fourth week.

Despite repeated requests, FSS did not offer any comment, but industry sources have indicated that the revised terms demanded by multiplexes led to a breakdown in negotiations over the Apes release.

A similar fate was averted at the last minute for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, which also saw revenue-sharing terms being negotiated between the film's distributor Mumbai-based Warner Bros Films India and multiplex owners. While both parties did not comment on the final agreement, unconfirmed reports indicate that multiplex revenues for Harry Potter will be shared on terms decided for films releasing in upcoming weeks.

The multiplex-producer tussle comes at a time when the Indian box office is rebounding with recent titles performing well. Bollywood hits crossing the 1 billion rupees ($22 million) mark include UTV Motion Pictures' Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and Reliance Big Pictures' Singham. While box office figures are not available for Hollywood titles, Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 are considered strong performers.

“This year will see an almost 25 percent jump over last year in overall cinema collections,” Big Cinemas COO Tushar Dhingra told The Hollywood Reporter, adding, “Thanks to increasing 3D penetration, Hollywood is also expanding its market share.”

India's largest cinema chain, Big Cinemas – owned by DreamWorks' equal partner Reliance Big Entertainment – operates over 250 screens nationwide and an almost equal number overseas.

Among India's total estimated 9,000 screen-count, multiplexes account for an estimated 1,500 screens, which can contribute to over 50 percent of a film's total revenues, given the high-value urban metro market served by multiplexes, especially for Hollywood movies.

A recent report by U.K. box office analyst Dodona Research projects that total Indian theatrical boxoffice will reach $1.3 billion by 2012, representing a 25% increase over 2007 figures.