The Chengalpet distribution area generates nearly one-third of the total box office gross of a Tamil movie and is home to five of the top ten theatres in the state. [1] As of July 18, major theatres in the area – Rakki, Vetri and Kasi – were not accepting advance bookings for the movie. For major releases, bookings are usually opened a week in advance.

Producer Kalaipuli S Thanu at the Madurakarange or Madurakaranga Audio LaunchThe problem has its origins in an earlier dispute that Kabali’s producer, Kalaipuli S Thanu had with the exhibitors in Chengalpet. In April of this year, when Thanu’s Theri – starring Vijay – was ready for release, a dispute arose between Thanu and the exhibitors in Chengalpet over profit sharing. The theatres were unwilling to pay the “minimum-guarantee” amount that Thanu asked for, and this resulted in a delay in releasing Theri in Chengalpet. Industry insiders estimate that this delay caused an estimated loss of 3 to 5 crores to Theri’s box office revenue.

A minimum guarantee is an initial sum that is paid to the producer by the distributor or exhibitors irrespective of how the film performs at the box office. Typically, star producers such as Thanu command a high minimum guarantee due to their track record. The minimum guarantee increases when the film has stars such as Rajinikanth or Vijay in the lead.

Panneerselvam, a member of the Chengalpet Exhibitor’s Association, was a key player during the Theri dispute, appealing vocally for an amicable resolution of the issue. Speaking to Silverscreen yesterday, he refused to comment about the delay in Kabali’s release, but maintained that the minimum guarantee (MG) and terms and conditions imposed by Thanu were making it difficult for the theatre owners. “Everytime a film becomes a hit, the Minimum Guarantee amount is raised. Some distributors kept on raising it until one day we incurred huge losses. Since then, we have been cautious about how and to whom we agree to give deposits. Again, we give only deposits. Last two years we have not given MGs to anybody. This is a simple matter of business. To save ourselves, we want some changes, is that so bad to ask?”

The Chengalpet distribution rights of Kabali had been purchased by the AGS group. A representative of the company preferred not to comment on the issue.

The timely release of the Telugu version of Kabali is also in doubt. Sobhan Babu, a Telugu film distributor, has alleged that Latha Rajinikanth, wife of Rajinikanth, owes him money and sources say he will seek to stay the release of the Telugu version of the movie if the issue is not settled. This dispute dates back to 2014. Sobhan Babu claims that Latha Rajinikanth promised to compensate him for losses he incurred when he distributed Rajinikanth’s live action animation film, Kochadaiiyaan, and that repeated attempts to collect the money from Latha Rajinikanth have been unsuccessful. Silverscreen has learnt from sources that Dasari Narayana Rao, president of the Telugu Film Producer’s Council, is mediating talks between the two parties, and that the dispute is likely to be settled out of court.