What lies ahead for big screens as streaming platforms bag more new releases in Covid-19 lockdown
Covid-19 pandemic induced lockdown in India has already passed three and a half months mark with multiplexes and theatres being non-operational. With crores of losses to Indian entertainment industry that is mounting with each passing day, there is lot of anxiety in the film fraternity.
When Shoojit Sircar directed Gulaabo Sitaabo was decided in mid-May to be released on Amazon Prime India in June, it clearly indicated as a reaction of mounting financial pressure. Some of the most hyped big production movies, including Vidya Balan’s Shakuntala Devi, were marked to be released on OTT platforms due to looming uncertainty of multiplexes reopening amid pandemic lockdown. This decision met with opposition and criticism from leading multiplexes in India like INOX and PVR.
On Monday, June 29, another awaited movie that was anticipated to be a blockbuster, creating mass revenues, Akshay Kumar’s Laxmmi Bomb was announced to premier on Disney Hotstar Plus – again a big jolt to big multiplexes. More movies to be releasing on Disney Hotstar Plus include Bhuj: The Pride of India, Dil Bechara, Sadak 2, The Big Bull, Khuda Haafiz and Lootcase.
This is causing chaos among business houses and multiplexes owners, as it is causing a lot of revenue loss. With continuous lockdown due to pandemic the losses are only mounting up for the Indian entertainment industry.
CEO of Carnival Cinemas, Mohan Umrotkar said “It is very disappointing that filmmakers are opting for the digital first route when we are just steps away from the theatrical releases with the reopening of cinema halls across the country with all the necessary precautions. If the films made for theatres release directly on streaming platforms, it may hamper the overall growth of the ecosystem.”
In a system that has been followed traditionally, box office collections are the prime revenue earners for producers. Umrotkar said, “If a movie does well, anything between 60% and 70% of its earnings come from the box collections, both from domestic and overseas markets.”
The issue of profit sharing between multiplexes and producers has always been under contention. Trade Analyst Girish Johar says, “The producers and exhibitors split the net value of the box office collections, after deducting the tax. In the first week, the producer takes 50% of the profit. In the second week, producer gets 45%, and the third week onward their share is 35%”.
Yash Raj Films and Reliance Entertainment have decided not to release their movies ‘83’ and Sooryavanshi on OTT platforms as their production rate is immense. If they miss release in multiplex, they wouldn’t be able to recover the production costs.
The future of big screens still looks unpredictable with continued lockdown across the country. Online streaming of movies is offering a double blow to the revenues for multiplexes and productions houses.