Lockdown pushes Bollywood to explore OTT options?

ott platforms

With the ongoing nationwide lockdown, Bollywood is surrounded by uncertainty. Losses are shooting up, and the trade fears that the upcoming months will see a tough run at the box office. Over a fortnight ago, Universal Pictures in the US had decided to release one of their fresh movies, Trolls World Tour, online and in theatres simultaneously, on Friday, April 10. However, the film ended up on home entertainment platforms with no theatrical release. The studio has also pushed some of its in-theatre films like The Invisible Man, The Hunt and Emma, on home-video platforms. Studios like Paramount and Disney have also released their films (The Lovebirds and Artemis Fowl, respectively) directly on streaming platforms.

Films that moved to OTT after the lockdown halted their theatrical run
Closer home, Irrfan-starrer Angrezi Medium, which released on March 13, registered a short run at the BO amidst the COVID-19 crisis. Though producer Dinesh Vijan had expressed the desire to re-release the film in theatres post the lockdown, in the current scenario, it has been released on the OTT platform. The Tamil remake of Vicky Donor, Dharala Prabhu, and Telugu thriller Madha faced the same problem. The question is, will this become a trend in India, where small and medium-budget films made for a theatrical release open straight on OTT platforms for a premium fee?

Top actors don’t want their films to release on OTT directly: Trade Analyst
Trade analyst Komal Nahta says, “We will witness many BO clashes. The bigger films will have to wait for the overseas markets to also normalise before starting promotions. So, while a big film may not readily consider an OTT release as an option, if things get tougher, mid-ranged and smaller films could explore it to recover investments.” Independent distributor and trade analyst Amod Mehra says, “It won’t be easy, because top actors don’t want their films to release on OTT directly.”

Hindi films that release theatrically can be made available on an OTT platform only after six-eight weeks of release, according to a contract with exhibitors. It’s six weeks or 90 days in the US market, too. Shibashish Sarkar, Group CEO, Content, Digital & Gaming at Reliance Entertainment, which is backing Kabir Khan’s 83 (which was to release in theatres on April 10), adds, “We will end up with a clogged release window when things open up. I won’t be surprised if some mid and small-budget films go straight for digital release. Not every producer has the capacity to hold on to a film for very long. Also, if some important films move to OTT directly, it might lead to a new consumption pattern. ”

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Box: View Point
Ronnie Lahiri, co-producer, Gulabo Sitabo
“I am sure some people are discussing OTT as an option, but the math needs to be worked out. Every film has its set revenue components and going straight to OTT cuts out two-three of them. Would the OTT platforms make up for that?”
— (postponed, was slated to release on April 17)

Vinod Bachchan, producer, Ginny Weds Sunny “I had an offer to release my film Ginny Weds Sunny on an OTT platform. But I am in no hurry to sign up. However, going to an OTT platform can give smaller films a larger audience and save the producer a hefty PNA cost. We make a film for Rs 6 crore and spend almost the same amount to release it. The latter can be saved. Profit ho ya na ho, picture release bhi hogi aur investment bhi recover hoga.”
(scheduled to release in 2020).

Kamal Gianchandani, CEO, PVR Pictures “This is a unique situation that does not have a rule book to refer to. We have been in touch with the producers and they are unanimous that theatrical is the most important exhibition arm for cinema.”

Girish Wankhede, trade analyst “It won’t be surprising if OTT deals become what satellite deals were back in the day. Any producer who makes the decision right now will get the early-bird advantage.”

Karan Bedi, CEO, MX Player “The duration of the lockdown will decide a lot of things. Many producers are reaching out to OTT platforms for releasing their films because there’s a huge backlog of content. We are in touch with them to find a solution to release their films. This could create disruption in the way things work. Obviously, everything boils down to the content. Whatever the deal is with a producer, it will have to be win-win.”

Box: Release dates as per the last available film trade calendar
Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar – March 20
Sooryavanshi – March 24
Haathi Mere Saathi – April 2
83 – April 10
Gulabo Sitabo – April 17
Coolie No 1 – May 1
Dil Bechara – May 8
Shakuntala Devi – May 8
The Girl on the Train – May 8
Jhund – May 8
Laxmmi Bomb – May 22
Radhe – May 22

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