BACK in August, 42nd Pictures put out a film called Nota starring Maya Karin and Hans Isaac. A highly-visual psychological thriller which received positive reviews, the film was one of few we’ve celebrated this year. However, we took notice of how it was pulled out from cinemas despite skim wajib tayang, resulting in poor box office collection.
The folks behind new release Jagat aren’t going to let this happen to their film.
A Skyzen Studios production, word of mouth has been circulating on Jagat, prompting more interest to watch it in its second week of release. It did remarkably well at the box office for a low-budget Malaysian Tamil feature: despite its limited release, Jagat debuted at #11 on the overall Malaysian box office chart, suggesting high per-theatre averages.
According to official tallies, Jagat had approximately 7100 admissions over the week of its release for a gross of about RM72,000 from a mere 24 prints.
At a press conference in Nagas Restaurant on Jalan Tun Sambanthan, director Shanjhey Kumar Perumal spoke out against cinemas dropping the film from their schedules, days after its release.
In fluent Bahasa Melayu, he explained that the attitude adopted by many exhibitors (venues screening the film) has been disappointing, crippling further success of the film.
“Ini masalah yang sudah lama wujud, tetapi ramai tidak mahu membawa isu ini,” stated Shanjhey.
“Menerusi skim wajib tayang, kami diberi 14 hari grace period. Mekanisme yang sama tidak boleh digunakan untuk semua jenis filem tempatan.”
Jagat may not be a blockbuster with big names, but it has the potential to succeed financially given the positive feedback it has been receiving. It’s also one of few films to appeal towards Malaysians from various ethnic backgrounds.
The Jagat team contends that all they require is a fair playing field. Exhibitors need only abide by rules and give the film its fair share of screening days and time slots.
The big concern for everyone involved however is the fact that skim wajib tayang has not been employed effectively. Though the National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (FINAS) has been supportive towards Jagat, it seemed to be largely inactive in terms of enforcing the policy.
Manipulating skim wajib tayang for commercial gain, exhibitors have been giving Jagat “graveyard slots” — cinemas screen the film (which carries an 18+ rating) during the morning and the afternoon, which makes it inaccessible to working adults.
This results in an occupancy below 15%, and gives them reason to pull the film out of their venues to make way for screenings of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and a backlog of releases from India.
Producer Siva Perianan was upset by this behaviour, bringing up the fact that only after announcing a press conference, exhibitors quickly added the film to their night slots.
“Some theatres play with the 15% occupancy clause by organising morning showings and not night showings. On top of this, when people try to book online for certain venues, they get notified of a full house. But when they actually reach these venues, there are still many seats left,” informed Siva.
“We released this movie to coincide with Star Wars because we were confident enough in our product. What we wanted were just our limited screenings and proper showtimes. Don’t just pull a movie out of your venues without informing anyone; we noticed some cinemas have done just that.”
On it’s fourth day of release, some cinemas screened Jagat just once. By doing the absolute minimum to comply and find ways to technically fulfill the requirements for skim wajab tayang, exhibitors have displayed unethical behaviour, further stunting the growth of local films.
Siva also questioned FINAS in relation to how the organisation is ensuring skim wajib tayang was practised by exhibitors, and wanted to know why the need for complaints and issues to crop up before they took notice.
MIC Youth chief C. Sivarraajh was present to show his support, and added that this was the first time a local Tamil film has garnered this amount of positive feedback from industry insiders. He hoped to see more local content in cinemas and television because he believed that for patriotism to flourish, audiences need to see more examples of good work from their own folk.
Jagat opened on 17 December 2015.