The pandemic has changed the landscape of film production drastically. Now, the tensions and the uncertainty seem to be translating into an inevitable moment of territoriality and fear of new players in a highly competitive space.
When makers of Gulabo Sitabo announced that they will be releasing the film via Amazon Prime on June 12, pandora's box seemed to have been opened. Theatre owners have been hit by the pandemic's worst this time, as they have closed shut. With social distancing becoming the norm, producers are also at a conflicted crossroads of new unchartered territory and the traditional way.
Producer's Guild hits back at theatre owners
Recently, Amazon India has acquired 7 films including highly-anticipated Bollywood movies- Gulabo Sitabo and Shakuntala Devi. The films will go straight to digital, rather than the traditional route via cinemas and multiplexes. This has raised alarms for theatre owners in the country who have been very concerned about a loss of business due to the ongoing pandemic and lockdown.
When the makers of the films announced that the films will have a digital release, while audiences were thrilled, cinema owners found the move to be a threat. Amazon even made its biggest move yet in acquiring these two big-ticket films with actors who usually pull big audiences to theatres.
Earlier, INOX had lashed out at the producers for the costly decision citing, "extreme displeasure and disappointment," over Gulabo Sitabo's release on an OTT platform. The CEO of PVR also spoke to HuffPost, "We are disappointed with Gulabo Sitabo's decision to go straight to a streaming platform. We were hoping that the producers would accede to our request to hold back their film's release till cinemas reopened."
T 3531 -Joined Film Ind., in 1969 .. in 2020 .. its 51 years !! .. seen many changes and challenges .. NOW another CHALLENGE ..— Amitabh Bachchan (@SrBachchan) May 14, 2020
DIGITAL RELEASE of my film GULABO SITABO !!
June 12 Amazon Prime 200+ country's .. THAT IS AMAZING !
Honoured to be a part of yet another change pic.twitter.com/ccH2Qxh92D
Theatres have been fearing the impact of the lockdown and Coronavirus, considering how social distancing is bound to become the new normal. Despite measures being taken to ensure that all the checks and balances for a safe viewing experience are maintained, nobody can deny the mindset shift in the population. Moreover, it will be a while before cinemas fully reopen and function at the same scale as they did pre-lockdown.
Many films have been sitting on shelves due to the unprecedented global crisis. Following the criticism, the Producer's Guild released their side of things, "it is disappointing to see abrasive and unconstructive messaging from some of our colleagues in the exhibition sector." The Guild also listed some reasons like costs of production and delay, the uncertainty after cinemas reopen and lower occupancy.
When times change, there's bound to be change, and not all change will be easily adapted to. A middle ground though, in this case, seems hard to establish.