Indian films are planning a digital release only: will it last?

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Led by Bollywood, the multi-billion dollar Indian entertainment industry, has been gravitating to digital platforms since India was blocked in March. Although some major ticket releases are planned in the coming months, it remains to be seen whether showbiz can completely ignore theaters given the high ticket prices.

While Shoojit Sircar's “Gulabo Sitabo” starring Amitabh Bachchan and youth icon Ayushman Khurrana is slated for a June 12 release on Amazon Prime, recent rumors suggest that several more films may follow soon on Netflix and Disney. + HotStar.

The last movie to hit theaters before the lock was Irrfan Khan's Angrezi Medium and the movie premiered on Disney + HotStar in the first week of April and had an extended run at the top of the rankings. . Without doubt, the death of the main actor Irrfan Khan brought an element of nostalgia.

Industry sources say that foreclosure losses could be in the range of Rs.3000 to Rs.3500 crores (around 30 to 35 billion INR). With more than 40 OTT platforms to choose from, filmmakers are no doubt shifting their allegiance to digital, given the explosive growth it has seen in post-Covid-19 locking.

The real challenge

The exorbitant cost of producing and distributing films and the excessive use of satellite rights as a source of income could become a crucial factor in the future. The big production houses may prefer to ignore the impact of Covid-19, while the smaller ones could gravitate towards the OTT platforms, in the hope of a theatrical replay.

Best directors such as Kabir Khan and Rohit Shetty continued record that they had no intention of going in the OTT direction with their next versions 83 and Sooryavanshi respectively. Industry experts believe that these are films that could help bring audiences back to theaters after the foreclosure is complete.

While the big producers prefer to wait and watch, there are others who want their films to see the light of day without uncertainty. Reports suggest that several Bollywood films may be OTT-oriented in the near future.

OTT as a savior

While the IT industry has done a good job with home deployment, showbiz now hopes that they too can get a large portion of these employees to watch their movies on OTT platforms. After all, the same IT industry contributes to a large part of India's multiplex audience.

The film industry, which directly and indirectly accounts for almost 3% of India's GDP and employs over a million people, uncertainty is something they cannot accept, says veteran filmmaker from Chennai , who has come out of retirement and is working on a script on the history of the revolutionary scholar Bangalore Nagaratnamma.

Given these high stakes, there is no reason why producers should wait for the reopening of cinemas because each passing day increases their costs, he said while stressing that a multitude of Tamil films, Telugu and Malayalam could be previewed on digital platforms, because postponing the exit could be disastrous for financiers.

Also, why would we want to wait for a limited release in one state or across the country in the case of Bollywood movies when it can have a global audience? Gulabo Sitabo, who is expected to hit OTT platforms in June, can be seen by Indians living in 200 countries. And most of these countries are also locked out.

What about theaters?

Does this mean that direct to digital is the way to go? Certainly not, if the Multiplex Association of India (MAI) declaration is an indicator. The forum, which represents the country's cinema operators, wants the industry to “preserve the sanctity of the exclusive theatrical window, which could be between a few weeks and two months.

In addition, some rumors have already started around the direct release of Gulabo Sitabo on the OTT platform. Inox Movies released a statement questioning the release saying that such acts vitiate the atmosphere of collaboration between the filmmakers and the exhibitors.

A senior executive working with a large production house in Mumbai believes that there more than the filmmakers, producers and financiers feel the pinch and in many cases, it is the latter who force the team to take the OTT route out of despair. .

In the future, there would be a clear distinction between filmmakers who will look for OTT as a means for a wider release of their films while the big ticket companies would stay with theatrical release, because for them cinema is about showbiz and the gala premieres a way to generate buzz.

And the public? It all depends on whether they believe in the collective social experience of watching movies on the big screen or stick to one OTT plan and offer the family the freedom to choose what to watch.

But we can say that in India, cinemas (multiplexes) are reputed to have deceived the audience with high prices for everything that many would prefer to watch films on the OTT platforms, even if the television screens at home and high definition streaming keeps getting better. . Plus, most Indian movies seem tailor-made for a streaming experience, as only a handful is really made for the big screen.

Things seem to be balanced one way or another.



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