Streaming Platforms Won the War Against Movie Theatres in Coronavirus Lockdown?

Movie theatres were among the primary business establishments to stop working as India went under lockdown seeable of the coronavirus outbreak. On May 4, the Multiplex Association of India (MAI) had appealed to studio partners, producers, artists and content creators to support the cinema exhibition sector by holding their films and releasing them in theatres once they're opened again.

Exactly 10 days after MAI's appeal, the primary major announcement of a movie-going straight to digital was made.

Really! Streaming OTT Platforms Has Won the War Against Movie Theatres in Coronavirus Lockdown?

Amazon Prime Video announced that the Amitabh Bachchan-Ayushmann Khurrana starrer Hindi film Gulabo Sitabo will globally premiere exclusively on the streaming service. The film was originally presupposed to release in theatres on April 17.

"This is that the dawn of a brand new era for Indian entertainment," said the film's director Shoojit Sircar during a statement.

This dawn wasn't a welcome one for several stakeholders. Multiplex chain INOX released a press release expressing their "extreme displeasure and disappointment" over the move.

PVR Pictures CEO Kamal Gianchandani said, "We are disappointed with a number of our producers deciding to travel straight to the streaming platforms. We were hoping that the producers would accede to our request to carry back their film's release till cinemas reopen."

Not farewell ago, filmmakers around the world were debating whether streaming services will eat up the business of theatres. The Coronavirus Pandemic has made that fear even more realistic. But is it really possible for streaming platforms to match the business, moreover because the euphoria, of watching a movie during a theatre?

Stars are born in theatres, not on web platforms.

The first category of films/stars that can't afford to travel straight to digital are the members of the Rs 100 to 300 crore clubs. Akshay Kumar's Sooryavanshi and Ranveer's '83 were two big releases slated for this summer. Trade pundits and cinema chains are unanimous in saying that these films will need to wait till theatres receptive release across India and overseas. Digital sales won't help recoup their Rs 100 crore plus budgets.

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Film trade analyst Atul Mohan says, "For big-budget movies, it's practically impossible to recover the investment. All the A-listers - right from the three Khans to Akshay Kumar, Hrithik Roshan, Ajay Devgn, even Tiger Shroff and Varun Dhawan – star in big-budget movies. they can't recover the entire amount from the digital package only. The revenue model is roughly like this: they struggle to recover making costs from the arena business in India, the P&A (publicity and advertising) from the overseas market and cash in on the digital and satellite sales. you may save on P&A by releasing it on digital, but a producer won't be willing to abandoning of the Rs 100-150 crore business from theatres."

"For example, Sooryavanshi's making cost is Rs 125 crore. Staring at the last films of Akshay Kumar and Rohit Shetty, the film was expected to earn Rs 250 to 300 crore from the Indian theatrical business. It's Ajay Devgn and Ranveer Singh too, which increased expectations. There are four production houses involved – Reliance Entertainment, Rohit Shetty Picturez, Dharma Productions and Cape of fine Films. The film was expected to try to Rs 100 crore minimum at the Indian box office. they might have earned another 30-50 crore from the overseas market. The digital and satellite rights were sold for around Rs 125 crore. An OTT platform cannot acquire a movie like Sooryavanshi for Rs 200-225 crore," Atul explains.

So, if you wish to observe an Akshay Kumar or Salman Khan entertainer, the theatre continues to be your only option. "Once an A-lister like Akshay goes to digital, there'll be no parameter to evaluate anyone's stardom. Stars are created from the cinema – the long queues, the mad rush – all that adds up to their stardom. The conversation about who may be a bigger star are going to be eliminated," Atul says.

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Which films are going straight to digital?

There is an upper-mid range of films, second to the biggies, that OTT platforms are learning now. While large scale producers can afford to attend another six months, the lockdown may be a grave problem for small-scale producers and independent filmmakers who seek loans from funding capitals.

Film trade analyst Girish Johar explains, "When a producer puts in his own money or takes a loan against his assets, he has a noticeable interest to pay to the bank. During this point, when the assembly has stalled, they still need to pay that interest amount. the govt has given certain guidelines on a moratorium, but just for the nonce, the interest hasn't been waived off. While big producers can bear this dent, smaller ones can't."

Demand permanently content leading OTT to buy for films

The current situation is giving rise to many business models. Aparna Acharekar, Programming Head, ZEE5 India, agrees that the producers will sell their movies to OTT or stay up for theatres counting on what suits them best. But the streaming services are trying to find good content to satisfy consumer demands straight away.

"Big and little releases jostle for space among themselves in theatres around the year. But now, there's a consumer demand with a paucity of fine content. So it is an experience to release movies on OTT. Our next movie release is Ghoomketu, in which has Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Anurag Kashyap and a cameo appearance by sir Amitabh Bachchan. During a normal situation, we'd have struggled to seek out space for it among such a lot of films releasing in theatres. But now, this is often visiting be our big Eid release." Aparna says.

"The just one gaining during this entire situation is that the consumer. The business which may adapt quickly to the patron needs winds up winning. People are willing to pay if you give them good content to observe on OTT,” she adds.