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Amazon/Netflix or theatres? Movie business' dilemma

May 18, 2020 13:38 IST

'While OTTs are a reality, big film producers will prefer a theatrical release before a digital one.'

Illustration: Dominic Xavier/

Over-the-top (OTT) players such as Amazon Prime and Netflix may have come to the rescue of a few film producers, inking deals for direct launches, but many still prefer the old way to release their products.

Karan Johar, Rohit Shetty, Kabir Khan, Salman Khan, and Aamir Khan have chosen to push their theatrical releases to later this year, conversations with multiplex operators and sources reveal.

Shetty and Johar are eyeing a Diwali release for Sooryavanshi.

Salman Khan is also planning a Diwali release for Radhe.

Brahmastra, starring Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt, and Lal Singh Chaddha, starring Aamir Khan, will be released in December.

'83 -- starring Ranveer Singh, directed by Kabir Khan and produced by him and Deepika Padukone among others -- will release in January.


Mohan Umrotkar, chief executive, Carnival Cinemas, felt the trend of releasing films on OTT platforms directly is a temporary phenomenon.

"I don't see this going beyond the lockdown. The ones who have decided to go ahead with a digital release were possibly in a difficult situation. While OTTs are a reality, big film producers will prefer a theatrical release before a digital one," he said.

The reason for this is the film ecosystem, say experts, which prevents big producers and actors to eye a digital-first release for blockbusters.

A movie like Sooryavanshi, estimated to have been made with a Rs 150 crore budget, will recover its cost if it decides to take the digital route, say analysts tracking the market.

But if the same film takes the conventional route of a theatrical release first, followed by an OTT platform, and then a satellite release, chances of it raking in more are greater, Umrotkar said.

Sources say the top four multiplex chains in the country -- PVR, Inox, Cinepolis, and Carnival -- are asking big producers to wait rather than rush to release their films on OTT platforms.

Kamal Gianchandani, chief executive, PVR Pictures, said that theatrical releases were the best way for audiences to experience the labour and creative genius of film-makers.

"This has been so for decades and not just in India. The ongoing COVID-19 crisis has caused an unfortunate shutdown of cinemas. We are confident that once we get to the other side of this crisis, there would be enough and more pent-up demand from cinegoers," he said.

The Producers Guild of India has said film-makers were free to look at all avenues to recover their investment.

'At a time like this, it is important that each stakeholder understand the predicament of the other. We would like to emphasise that we are passionately and unequivocally supportive of theatrical releases. But these are unprecedented times and it is important to see things in that context,' the body said.

According to a recent report by PwC, the Indian video OTT market is set to surge at a compound annual growth rate of 21.8 per cent to reach $1.7 billion (or Rs 13,000 crore) by 2023.

In 2018, the OTT market in India was pegged at $638 million (or Rs 4,850 crore).

The arrival of 5G networks would galvanise OTT platforms further, the consultancy said.

India provides a huge opportunity for online video providers

Apart from the traditional OTT players in the market, major broadcasters in the country have also invested in this segment and launched their own OTT platforms.

"The main hindrance though to the market here is the average price for cable and satellite subscriptions," Rajib Basu, partner and leader, entertainment and media, PwC India, said, "which limits subscription revenues for OTT players."

Viveat Susan Pinto and Arnab Dutta
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