Cinema halls have existed for the past several decades now - ever since the inception of movie-making business. And it wouldn't be wrong to say that theatres have been the backbone of the Indian film industry for several decades now.
For the past couple of months, theatre owners, distributors, and those who are associated with the film business have been hit badly due to Coronavirus outbreak. And it looks like the influx of OTT platforms seems to have posed a new threat to cinema hall and multiplex owners.
As cinema halls continue to remain shut amid lockdown, film producers decided to give green light to the release of films such as Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushmann Khurrana starrer Gulabo Sitabo and Vidya Balan's Shakuntala Devi on OTT platforms. The move has certainly led to a war of words between producers and exhibitors over the direct release of movies on OTT platforms.
It is also being said that movies like Akshay Kumar's Laxmmi Bomb, Anurag Basu's Ludo, Sidharth Malhotra's Shershaah, Janhvi Kapoor's Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl, Kiara Advani's Indoo Ki Jawaani, Ishaan Khatter and Ananya Panday's Khaali Peeli and Janhvi's Roohi Afzana are also being lined up for a digital release.
And while the ongoing pandemic continues to hamper film business, does that mean that OTT platforms have now taken over the big screens?
Time and again, cinema halls have faced competitions from several distribution platforms for many years. But they have managed to remain the first choice of moviegoers who flock the theatres to enjoy the larger than life cinematic experience.
Not just the entertainment quotient, but theatres have remained the most efficient source for filmmakers and producers to make a fortune out of their big-budget movies. Producers often laugh their way to the banks with films getting repeat value from moviegoers.
Is digital world the new reality?
One may feel that streaming platforms are the new reality in this digital world but the truth is that OTTs are still far from turning into a revenue platform.
"The films that are coming on OTT are somewhat premium content. These are not big tentpole releases. Hollywood is following the same thing. Marvel Studios has pushed all the tentpole movies to 2021.
"OTT can't be a revenue platform for buying Rs 200 crore film. In the case of OTT platforms, it is the time when they can get maximum subscribers as everyone is at home, that's why they are buying new films. Cinemas need not fear as there would be jump once everything is normal, and the window will be respected by the makers as well," trade analyst Girish Johar explained.
He further added, "Once lockdown is over and safety precautions in place, theatrical revenue will jump by more than 20 per cent because there is a lot of pent up demand."
Theatres and OTTs will co-exist
With the emergence of OTT platforms, filmmakers can now think of releasing their projects digitally depending on the content of their films. One may feel that their content is not strong enough to pull the audience in theatres and can opt for a worldwide digital release for a wider reach online.
Digital releases of movies will surely boost the popularity of Indian movies but they can't be treated as an alternate option for making money online. Theatres and OTTs are indeed two different platforms and their revenue cycle varies accordingly.
So it is highly unlikely that big screens might take a toll because of direct to OTT releases. Moviegoers know what they want and know where to consume content from. If OTTs can take you through the bylanes of filmmaking, theatres can walk you over the clouds giving you a different high altogether.
"Cinema and exhibition models will always remain. Now, it will coexist with the digital. Earlier digital was treated as a downgrade, now it will be co-existing. It will be an option open to the director and producer. OTT will be a major player in the future, and at the same time I don't think cinema will ever get over. There's some disruption at the moment due to COVID-19. It will soon get back to normal," Gulabo Sitabo co-producer Ronnie Lahiri said.
(With IANS Inputs)