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COVID-19 impact: Big paychecks to get smaller as star salaries may drop by 25%

Remuneration of superstars now account for 40-50 percent of production costs. While leading actors may also opt for profit-sharing, others may not be that lucky

July 09, 2020 / 09:33 AM IST

The film industry is also likely to see pay cuts. That includes your favourite stars as well. According to Shailesh Kapoor, CEO, Ormax Media, the extent of the cut will 20-25 percent.

For stars or A-list actors, this fall will reflect in the upfront amount they charge. Many stars, especially in Bollywood, also opt for profit-sharing along with an upfront fee.

Industry estimates put the fees of leading actors like Akshay Kumar and Ranveer Singh in Rs 35 crore-Rs 45 crore range. For leading ladies like Alia Bhatt and Deepika Padukone, it is in the Rs 5 crore-Rs 12 crore range.

These star ‘salaries’ take up a good portion of the overall film budget. “The remuneration of actors ranges from 20-25 percent for films with a modest starcast to up to 40-50 percent for films casting superstars,” said Kapoor.

Economics of filmmaking changes


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Shibasish Sarkar, CEO, Reliance Entertainment, the company that has produced big ventures like Akshay Kumar’s Sooryavanshi and Ranveer Singh’s 83, highlighted the pain points in the film industry now.

“For theatrical releases, almost 60-70 percent revenue is dependent on domestic and overseas business. There is uncertainty on theatrical revenues. While digital revenues have shown a strong growth, there is a distinct question on satellite revenues as advertising revenues are under stress. In the post-COVID situation, there will be substantial requirement to be followed in the shooting floor, which will increase daily costs,” Sarkar said.

“In this scenario, producers will definitely curtail cost of production.

Even the remuneration to technicians and costs in other aspects of filmmaking will be relooked,” he explained.

Regional film industry stars will also see fee cuts 

Actors down south and in other regional film industry will also see a drop in their fees. Recently, Malayalam artists association has agreed to reduce the remuneration to stars and other artists. The Malayalam Cine Technicians Association (MACTA) has agreed for salary reduction.

Film trade analyst Sreedhar Pillai said that other film industries in south will follow suit. While producers are asking for a 50 percent cut in star ‘salaries’, they will have to do with a 30 percent reduction. In addition, star directors will also see pay cuts, he added.

Southern stars account for 40-50 percent of the total cost of production, said Pillai. “No star will get a huge fee as the risks are high. Even after theatres reopen, the occupancy levels will be low for around a year. Plus, COVID-19 will eat into 30 percent box office revenue,” he said.

Marathi filmmaker and producer Akshay Bardapurkar said: “A film which was made out of Rs 3 crore will now cost Rs 2 crore. So, right from artist fee to locations to director and writers fee, each and every area is affected.”

Let’s share profits

Does this mean more actors will take the profit-sharing route already followed by stars like Akshay Kumar and Shah Rukh Khan? Pillai said they will be forced to do so.

Kapoor says “smaller and upcoming stars are unlikely to be offered this option, and may have to take a pay cut.” In the Marathi industry, too, sharing profits may not be an ideal situation.

“They (stars) began to get into the profit-sharing scene only a few years back. However, it failed to take off since stars can share profits only if a film does well at the box office. While Marathi films do well on the content level and are even recognised by critics and have received several awards, they don’t have a great run at the box office. Artists are wary of this situation and want to settle for a fixed fee,” said Bardapurkar. However, a star’s salary in Marathi films is only 10-20 percent of the total film cost, he added.

Actors across languages have agreed for pay cuts. In an interview, Kartik Aaryan said that he was open for a cut. In fact, Tamil actor Vijay Antony, who has to his credit films like Kaali, had, in May, said in a statement that he will take a 25 percent fee cut for his upcoming three ventures.
Maryam Farooqui
first published: Jul 9, 2020 09:33 am
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