How do the audience prefer to watch a film ? – OTT vs Cinema Theatres
The debate regarding the direct-to-digital release has witnessed a massive rift in the Hindi film industry.
The debate on whether the cinema halls will lose its charm or who will win the war? OTT v/s Cinema Theatres.
What is the opinion of the audience in general? how would they prefer to watch a film?
Whether like always, first day first show in the theatres or first day first show in the comforts of one’s home?
With cinemas shutting down due to the Covid-19 the demand for OTT platform has risen with more and more producers opting to release their films on digital platform that has more viewership then ever before. They are looking at skipping the traditional routes hence the debate is over direct-to-digital releases.
Last week the much awaited film ‘ Gulabo Sitabo’ by one of the prominent directors, Shoojit Sircar, Starring Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushman Khurana and Shakuntala Devi by Anu Menor were released on the Amazon Prime Video.
Amazon went on to acquire titles of regional films like Jyotika starrer Ponmangal Vandhar along with Four other digital premiers. The OTT platform which is already popular for many years is speculating several other film releases, including that of Akshay Kumar’ s Laxmmi Bomb, Karan Johar’s Gunjan Saxena- The Kargil Girl which are in the advance stages of discussion with the digital deals.
The new trend setter of releasing films on OTT has drawn criticism from the theatre owners And film exhibitors across India. While multiplex like INOX chain have spoken of retributive measures in their Statement, PVR has urged producers to hold on to their film releases until theatres are opened after the Corona outbreak is cleared.
Earlier the Tamil Nadu Theatre and Multiplex Owners Association had expressed their disappointment over their huge investments in infrastructure where in CEO Mohan Umrotkar, of Carnival cinemas had created employment for 2 lakh people over 450 operational screens across India. In addition to this, revenue the film exhibition sector also creates employment for over 2 lakh people. If the trend of releasing films on OTT platforms continues, there will be a cause of concern according to Mohan.
The Indian Box Office has generally generated a yearly revenue of Rs.10 to 15,000 crores. With the theatres remaining shut indefinitely, lot of business is lost and the situation gets no help from any Potential earners.
With ‘Gulabo Sitabo’ and ‘Shakuntala Devi’ going live on OTT there is an additional loss of Rs. 100 to 125 Crores. However, CEO Mohan believes that this situation is temporary in an extra ordinary circumstances due to unforeseen pandemic that has taken its toll on the film industry as well as the cinemas. He is confident that once the lockdown is lifted and the normalcy is restored, the industry will be back again with them.
Bollywood has predominantly maintained the eight-week window between the theatrical and the digital Releases and if a film is sold to the OTT one can do nothing about it to stop it in the given situation, says Manoj Desai, executive director of G7 Multiplex, and Maratha Mandir Cinema in Mumbai.
At present we are not sure when the cinemas will open and what measures will be taken. In the given Circumstances, the theatre owners can only wait for the crises to subside to start thinking ahead with their new plans.
While acknowledging the plight of producers, Manoj Desai says there can be no comparison with the theatrical experience which is irreplaceable. The films being telecasted on OTT were actually made for theatrical view like Sooryavanshi which won’t go for the digital release and will wait for the cinemas to Resume.
Last month the Hindi films Bamfaad and Ateet were released on ZEE5 and the the platform premiered, Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s long delayed comedy , Ghoomketu on May 22nd, 2020.
Since its inception, the goal is to entertain the audience says Aparna Acharekar, the programming Head of ‘ Be Calm Be Entertained’ Initiative. In addition, they also acquired the rights towards the Blockbuster films across languages and diverse topics. The contents are however free and on premium.
The digital release of feature films is not a new concept. It always existed when the OTT platforms came to light. According to the 2020 FICCI-EY report around 50 low budget films were released directly on the OTT platforms across India in 2019 alone. Streaming subscriptions the advent of the OTT began as it saw small films were less saleable names while OTT also guaranteed a wider audience for these small filmmakers. It also meant they could save on the prints and advertising costs. As a theatrical release is quite expensive affair with the major content acquisition lies with the film distribution company.
While the trend has helped the cinema to survive, it has also created implications for the larger Businesses such as producing a film or for the theatre owners and affecting big businesses.
With people banned from going to cinemas and cinemas all shut across most parts of India, the reopening of the theatres is indefinite. Though Mohan Desai is expecting the cinema business to resume this July with a partial sitting capacity in the theatres, after sanitization, wearing protective masks, it is not clear if the audience would like to take a risk or the cinema goers are now used to being cooped up at home and watch a film on the OTT in the comforts of their home for health and safety reasons. That too if the number of positive cases is reduced across the country.
Film shootings have also been indefinitely postponed globally hence the OTT-Theatrical rift is felt Across the supply chain. There are no film promotions like it was earlier, no lavish affairs which have now been reduced to webinars and telephonic interviews, online video conferencing, marketers are forced to take a turn towards benefiting the digital media firms who are operating through the crisis.
Digital Media consumption has increased and people are glued to their devices says Gautam Be Thakker The chief employee of Every media Technologies.
A digital release is a different ball game altogether, the digital distribution to the well established OTT platforms has several advantages like content exclusivity, no pre-existing theatrical relationship.
Every film release has had a unique strategy to stand out on the film streaming on various platforms.
Yet there is a segment, a huge one that still continues to say that they love going to the theatres and that Is something they are looking forward to and hope it will never change.
The truth is that we all enjoy going to the theatres which is something that will never change.”
The ongoing Covid-19 lockdown has created its impact in almost all sectors and all businesses across the World. however, it is believed that the most hit industry is the film industry and television industry. As several producers of films have decided to release their films on OTT Platforms as they are not Expecting the theatres to open anytime soon. Hence the OTT vs theatres debate continues to the Unforeseen future.
The PVR cinemas a few days back made a grand announcement that through a video and their messaging, that their theatres are all gearing up for the movie lovers with all the safety measures to invite their clients, the movie lovers with the equipment’s and proper social distancing, sanitizing etc. However the government hasn’t granted permission for the movie theatres to open therefor no movie releases are expected in the near future in the theatres.
A few months before the corona lockdown, Mukesh Ambani the owner of Jio mobiles had promised that the using the device the audience and viewers would be able to watch the cinema first day first show in the comfort zone of their own home. During that time nobody had even thought that it would soon come to effect. It’s like God’s Verdict. How did Mukesh Ambani dream of this and Jio benefit out of this new project they had in mind to adopt this during the pandemic spread in the country.
The new technology is here to stay for a very very long time and has its own charm that is totally a new experience for the movie lovers. The filmmakers are always in a dilemma whether to release the film on OTT or wait for its release in the theatres.
It is no surprise that the film industry has been affected the most and have sunk into huge debuts during this period. Hence producers and filmmakers are thinking twice and taking quick decisions to release films on various OTT platforms like the recent Angrezi Medium, Gulabo Sitabo and many that followed soon after. Including Alia Bhatt’s Sadak2, Sushant Singh Rajput’s Dil Bechara, and many others while the audience are lapping it all up and eager to watch it on the OTT channel. Senior actors like Ajay Devgn and Akshay Kumar have also decided that they are not going to stay behind and have announced their films on the Hot star, another OTT platform a few days ago.
Our nation, a 135 to 140 plus crore population not everybody can afford to watch films in cinemas even Before the lockdown. Also one noticed the films theatres did not run a film for many weeks. Sometimes a film hardly ran in the theatres and did badly at the box office collections. So the OTT platform is one of its kind when the films are on the platform for a long time streaming, trending for the audience. it is better than the pirated videos that people were crazy about and would have a parallel cinema illegally, with the distribution of the pirated videos of the films which were sold at a meagre sum of Rs. 100 per cassette.
Technology has advanced considerably since then and brought about the change and this change is expected to stay for a very long time to come.
Sushant Singh Rajput’s shocking death has brought his fans across demanding his last film Dil Bechara to be released in theatres for it’s the last film of their favourite star, however it is said the film is being released on Hot Star under the movement, #sushantonbigscreen. Time will tell whether the audience prefer the big screen or the OTT.
Judging the collections will be by gone days now when 100 to 330 crore fights may no longer exist or stay true. As streaming sites unlike YouTube does not show the number of viewers.
Abhishek Bachchan has expressed his views on the subject by stating that there is less judgement in a web than in a cinema who is also on the verge of making digital debut in the show, ‘Breathe”Into the Shadows’. The actor says there is less pressure and one does not have to worry about the box office Figures. However, people will still judge his performance which in turn will be reverted to film critics and largely his next web film will largely depend on his popularity in this first digital film that is going to be released soon.