As the film industry stares into the abyss of unprecedented economic slump experts say the only out of the mess is for the leading men lowering their fees per film drastically.
A major producer who wishes to remain unnamed says, “The A-list heroes, all of them, Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Aamir Khan, Ajay Devgn, Hrithik Roshan, Akshay Kumar, Ranveer Singh all charge between 90 to 130 crore rupees, This will have to end now. The heroes’ fees will have to go down by 70-80 percent for the film business to survive.”
Interestingly among the above-mentioned A-listers Shah Rukh, Aamir and Hrithik do not have any films on the floor. This means they will have to re-negotiate their on-the-table fee whenever they sign a new film.
Trade pundit Taran Adarsh feels the drop in star remuneration is inevitable now. “At a time when the industry has come to a grinding halt due to the lockdown, the economics have gone haywire. No one knows when cinemas would re-open or when would films hit the screens. Everyone is clueless. Also, since our films are released globally, the makers will have to wait till normalcy returns across the globe. Again, you cannot expect moviegoers to throng the cinema halls when theatres reopen. Earning your livelihood and getting life back on track will take priority. Entertainment is last on anyone’s list. Resultantly, the costs will escalate and the producer, obviously, will have to bear the brunt as far as the final costs are concerned at the time of release.”
This, says Taran, is where the actors will have to step in. “They – financiers, producers and actors specifically – will need to be on the same page as far as the economic viability of the project is concerned. It’s a scary scenario right now, frankly.”
Opines trade analyst Akshaye Rathi, “I truly believe that the entire entertainment eco-system needs to change its ways to enable its own r
revival. When an organisation faces an economic crisis, it cuts out the frills and sharpens its focus on the necessities. Similarly, the entertainment sector needs to cut out the high degree of vanity that it fuels and focus on making content with high intrinsic value and appeal that cuts across the length and breadth of the country at justifiable costs. The cost-cutting measures have to start with the talent and trickle-down across the value chain right up to the audience for cinema to again be a low hanging fruit for its consumers.”
Analyst Atul Mohan agrees with Akshaye. “Well, if you see almost all the A list actors have started taking share in profits in each film they do. Those who weren’t have also started asking for the same. This helps in bringing down not only the budget costs but also makes them lifelong partners in the intellectual property rights of the film. The share in profits can be 20% to 75-80% and upfront fees can be from 10 cr to 25 crore. Looking at the current situation and for a better future, I think the upfront fees will have to go down by 60-70% or even more and would just be token money and rest remuneration will be increased in share of profits. This will have to be done for survival of all.”
Girish Johar feels the pandemic has changed the economics of the movie industry forever. “The pandemic has hit the industry so hard that it’s a knockout punch for many. It has taken the film industry off tracks. The post-Covid scenario will be very different. Ours is a closely-knit labor-intensive industry and meeting safety and security guidelines will be a tough task and to maintain these is another tall order. This will also lead to cutting down of “hands available on deck” policy and increase in cost. So it’s a double blow. To offset this, the A-league actors will have to adjust their fixed fees being charged on a project.”
Johar points out that stars producing their own films will help minimize their remunerative losses. “Most of them work for their own production houses, so they can easily offset the lower fixed fee by claiming more percentage on the profit share. This will be easy for them, but will surely help in reducing the costs overall. Once everything becomes normal, I am pretty much confident that the A-league stars’ terms and conditions will be lapped up on a premium, due to pent up demand. This will eventually lead them with more profits, in the long run.”
Amod Mehra is of the opinion that star fees would not take a direct hit. “Most A-list heroes are also producers. So their income will reduce but not the fees.”