When will theatres re-open is the big question on everyone’s mind in the film industry, Shoots have resumed, actors are ready, but what about the venue showcase their work?
Also, many filmmakers have opted to release their ready films on OTT platforms instead — Gulabo Sitabo, Shakuntala Devi, Gunjan Saxena- The Kargil Girl, to name a few. The question arises: While speculation is rife that September could be the month when theatres reopen, makers will be naturally apprehensive about releasing their films, considering the audience might be scared and not venture out. Could these OTT releases be used again to test waters?
The industry remains divided. Shibasish Sarkar, CEO, Reliance Entertainment, says it depends on the choice of the platforms. “When a producer has sold the rights of his movies, they lie with the OTT platforms. If they want to release, they may. It logically doesn’t make sense, unless something has been changed in the negotiations that when the theatres re-open, the platforms will allow a one week plan. Unless it’s not in the contract, it’s not the producer’s choice,” he tells us.
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Earlier this year, Baaghi 3 had just released when the Covid-19 outbreak hit the country and theatres had to be closed. Tiger Shroff had told us then that they were hoping to come back to theatres, even after it came on an OTT platform. “I am half disappointed because our labour of hard work couldn’t reach it’s potential. However, I am satisfied because the bigger picture is the safety of our people and the government has made amazing decisions to follow that through. Let’s see, once the situation settles, perhaps we may re- release,” he had said.
However, producer Anand Pandit, who has decided to release his film The Big Bull starring Abhishek Bachchan on an OTT platform, says he is up for re-release of such films theatrically.
“Why not? I am sure it depends on the contract you have, and also whether it’s viable to go for it or not. But you have to do your analysis. It’s not just the print when you release theatrically, but also publicity. If your films is more B and C centric, single screen type, then it is a good thing to consider it, they might have not seen it on OTT,” he reasons.
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Pandit goes on to explain that it depends form film to film, if the makers include such clauses. “After the OTT run for three-six months, it can be my choice, whether I should go for box office or not. But if I have sold even that right, then not. There’s a lot of money lying in the international circuit. Producers could also buy back the rights at which they sold the film, but not at the same price,” he tells us.
Director Tigmanshu Dhulia, whose film Yaara released directly on an OTT platform recently, says chances look slim. “I can tell you about my film, it’s a Zee property now. If they want to and feel it’s great, it’s their prerogative. They have been regular distributors also of films. It depends on when theatres will open, and how much content is there to exhibit. There could be a dearth, as not many have been shooting. There might be some chance of these OTT films releasing, but it’s slim. So much money will also have to be put on marketing then,” he says.
On the part of the theatre owners, they are apprehensive if OTT to theatre releases would work. Manoj Desai Executive Director of G7 Multiplex and Maratha Mandir cinema, Mumbai, says, “The clear cut thing is OTT platforms are our biggest competitors now. If people are getting to watch films in their bedrooms, why would they come for them in theatres? The public won’t come to theatres in the beginning when theatres reopen, everyone is scared. Also, we don’t know what kind of notifications we would be given, like seat people keeping one empty in between. How will a couple sit? They would prefer it on digital comfortably at home. I have three theatres with a capacity for 1000 people, it will come down to 450, how will I make everyone sit? I will have incur charge on air conditioning and maintenance too.”
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