OTT has taken a toll on theaters post-pandemic. In the past two years of the global pandemic, digital space was hyped as cinema halls were shut due to lockdown. Several films were released directly on over-the-top platforms instead of theatrical releases. Even when there was little ease in the opening of multiplexes people were scared of stepping out in the crowd and waited for movies to get available on the web. That affected the box office collection of movies, nevertheless, there is good news for producers and audiences both. With effect from August 1, Bollywood films will be made available on OTT after completing eight weeks in cinema.
The business of cinema took a while to get back on track after the market restarted post-pandemic. In the last few months cinema halls have been booked at 100% occupancy. However still many prefer to watch movies online rather than pay a visit to theaters. As a result, filmmakers and stakeholders have decided to release Bollywood films on OTT after 2 months. This new rule will come into effect from the 1st of the eighth month of the year.
Akshaye Rathi, the film exhibitor and distributor, said: “It’s a mutually agreed-upon call. Movies like RRR and KGF – Chapter 2 have done over Rs. 1000 crores net business. Films like The Kashmir Files and Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 have done exceedingly well. JugJugg Jeeyo, too, has done really well. In that sense, the business has come back to normal. With absolute mutual consent and agreement between the production sector and exhibition sector, I believe movies are going back to having an eight-week window for the simple reason that it is in the interest of the producers. The streaming and satellite rights are sold for a fixed price. If the movie does exceedingly well on these platforms, there’s no upside to that. However, the box office is the only place which gives you an unprecedented lopsided upside. That’s the reason why every filmmaker would want to try and get a share of this pie. That can only happen when you give it a proper chance at the box office, that is, when the audience is not thinking in terms of ‘yeh film toh 2-4 hafton mein OTT pe aa hi jaayegi’. More than anything else, it’s about rebuilding the habit of the audience wanting to watch movies in theatres. And this only benefits the producers eventually. The more the box office collections are, the more the producers stand to gain.”
So after August 1, if any filmmaker wants to have an early OTT premiere, will he or she be allowed to do so? Akshaye Rathi replied, “It’s not like they won’t be allowed. They are the producers and it’s their copyright. On a case-to-case basis, depending on the cost-benefit analysis of the particular film, the producers and exhibitors will take a call. And forget about exhibitors in general. It is every exhibition chain’s call. PVR will take its own call and so will Inox, Cinepolis, Miraj, etc. Even single screen cinemas will take their own call. We have seen in the past where certain release plans of producers didn’t suit the exhibitors and they chose not to play. The others did.”
Akshaye Rathi added, “If the film delivers at the box office, the producers can negotiate a better satellite and OTT deal as well. Hence, if you give the box office a solid chance and it performs, the value of every other right amplifies. So it’ll be better for the producer in every possible way.”
Earlier when films didn’t make well at the bock office filmmakers offered a lumpsum amount to the streaming giants to premier their films early on their platform to make compensation for box office loss. But now with the new rule, the makers will be allowed to premier their movies on OTT after eight weeks. This means films like Raksha Bandhan, and Laal Singh Chaddha that will release next month will be available online right eight weeks after their theatrical release.