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Bollywood dispute stretches on

A DISPUTE between Bollywood producers and Indian multiplexes over revenue sharing hardened this week, with no end in sight to the monthlong boycott of new releases.

Indian movie fans - who spend an estimated 63 billion rupees (US$1.27 billion) each year at theaters - were again presented with a tepid array of aging Hollywood blockbusters and regional films yesterday, the night usually reserved for new releases.

Richa Bose, a 23-year-old software engineer, stood out front of Inox cinema in south Mumbai, looking unhappily at his ticket for "Fast and Furious 4."

"We don't want to see it, but we don't have a choice," he said.

The dispute comes at a challenging time for India's US$1.8 billion film industry, which is struggling to deal with a dearth of blockbusters, tight funding, falling ticket sales and rising competition from television - especially during cricket season in April and May.

The standoff, which began on April 4, has so far delayed the release of at least six major Bollywood films and two Hollywood movies, "Angels & Demons" and "X-Men Origins," producers said.

Analysts estimate the boycott has cost multiplexes 300 million rupees.

Talks between producers, who want a larger share of box office revenues, and multiplex owners collapsed on Tuesday, prompting Mumbai's largest movie studios to vow to release new movies at single screen and non-chain theaters, beginning at the end of this month.

Multiplexes quickly shot back. Six chains promised to gather a 400 million rupee war chest, and yesterday began hunting for films they could buy and distribute on their own.

Movie producers complain that India's national multiplex chains - which control 5.2 percent of the nation's 12,500 movie screens but account for 60 to 65 percent of ticket revenues because they charge more for tickets - have acted as a "cartel," negotiating revenue sharing agreements on a per-film basis that puts producers at a disadvantage.


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