Single screens in small towns play pirated version of Akshay Kumar-starrer Laxmii: Is pirarcy the need of the hour for them?

The cinema exhibition sector has taken a heavy beating in this pandemic and even though theatres have reopened, there are hardly any films that are available for release. And amid all this, there were reports that the pirated version of Akshay Kumar-starrer Laxmii, which released on an OTT, has made its way to single-screen cinemas in different parts of the country, especially tier 2 and tier 3 cities in the country.

This has put a big question on the whole fight against piracy policy of the film industry.

“These are extraordinary times and exhibitors are going through such terrible times. I am not saying one should condone but one should understand that it is now become a question of life and death for many exhibitors,” shares trade analyst Komal Nahta.

He further goes on to share that the woes of the single screens owners are very heartening. “We only talk about the multiplexes but there are also hundreds of thousands of single screen cinemas and for them it is a question of survival now. Knowing very well that what they are doing is wrong, they still are doing it because they have no option.”

After the reopening of cinemas, Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari is the only new film which hit theatres. Many small exhibitors are crying foul over the film industry not paying any heed to their demands of releasing films. So in this scenario is it fair to say that it a case of desperate times calls for desperate measure?

“An exhibitor is a respectable person and he will not take an illegal route. But these are extreme times and no one is to blamed,” says Shibasish Sarkar of Reliance Entertainment, while adding, “I don’t think an exhibitor even in the smallest of towns would have resorted to piracy in a normal situation. Piracy hurts both producers and exhibitor both lose.”

Almost close to nine months exhibitors have not earned a penny of income and there has been no ceasefire on the flow of expenses which is required to maintain a theatre. The release of films on OTT was like salt to their wounds and in a way they are pushed to this scenario, feels exhibitor Akshaye Rathi.

“Rather than crucifying them, we as an industry should take a more macro level view of the situation. We should treat the cause, not the symptoms. We should see to it that the right things are done to incentivize them. India is an under screened market and compared to population there are very less screens. We need to do whatever it takes to keep those screens existing. We need to look at it in a more pragmatic manner,” he says.

But somehow this practice would never be adopted by singles screen in A and B tier cities, according to Raj Kumar Mehrotra, General Manager of Delite Cinemas in Delhi.

“It cannot happen because they are aware of the situation and the rules. I don’t think the exhibitors here are even thinking of running pirated films in theatres. But in C-class centres, piracy is nothing new, they are habitual and that has not had an impact on the trade. But obviously it is shameful and shows exhibitors in bad light,” he explains.

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