Trade Winds Movies

Are OTT platforms a gamechanger for the Tamil film industry?

Home cinema or webinar concept. Cinema chairs around a laptop, blank white screen for copyspace, white background. 3d illustration

Home cinema or webinar concept. Cinema chairs around a laptop, blank white screen for copyspace, white background. 3d illustration  

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Why Kollywood producers are increasingly eyeing streaming platforms, and what that means to the theatre business

The single biggest game-changer in Kollywood this year has been the delivery of films on OTT platforms. The release window between theatrical and OTT platforms has shrunk from three months to one month! Last week, exhibitors were stumped when Karthi’s super-hit Deepavali release Kaithi was released on an OTT platform (Hotstar VIP), a month after its theatrical release. Immediately, national multiplex players like PVR, INOX and others across India stopped screening the film. Theatre owners across Tamil Nadu were livid, as Nikilesh Surya of Rohini Silver Screens in Chennai said, “Two out of three shows of Kaithi went houseful at our screen even a day before it started streaming online legally. This will set a dangerous precedent as the audiences in future will know that a particular film will arrive in streaming platforms at the earliest.”

The producer of Kaithi, SR Prabhu, who started the trend of releasing his films a few weeks after theatrical release on OTT platforms, remained unperturbed. “Theatre owners want a longer window between theatrical and OTT platforms and they are justified in that demand. But as a Tamil film producer, I feel that this is the right move, as piracy hits us from day one of release, and by the time a film reaches its third week, the revenue sharing changes and I get hardly ₹15 after deducting the tax, distributor and exhibitor share out of every ₹100 collected. It does not make business sense.”

However, Kamal Gianchandani, CEO, PVR Pictures, said, “There is a clear window of release between theatrical and OTT platforms that is being followed by Bollywood, which is eight weeks (56 days). We were taken aback when Kaithi, a proven theatrical hit, released on a streaming platform in 30 days, and we stopped its screening immediately across India. As part of our policy, we will never allow a film to be shown in both platforms simultaneously. To get people to cinemas is not easy. We will not allow the release window between the platforms to come down any further.”

Meanwhile, national multiplex players have called for a meeting with Kollywood producers and distributors, as they want a uniform policy regarding release window between platforms to be followed. Henceforth, like in Bollywood, the OTT release date is likely to be announced at the time of theatrical release itself. Everyone associated with Bollywood trade knows that Housefull 4 (which released in theatres on the same day as Kaithi) will release on Hotstar on December 20. A spokesperson of the multiplex association said, “We have made it clear that from Christmas, releases in Tamil (films like Hero and Thambi) can be premièred on OTT platforms only after 56 days of their theatrical release. If they do not follow the rules, we will not screen them.”

Shift in business model

Meanwhile, the other big Deepavali hit, Vijay’s Bigil, which is still running in limited screens in Tamil Nadu, will have its OTT première on Amazon Prime on December 13 (50 days after its theatrical release). A paradigm shift is taking place in Tamil movie business, as producers are running after OTT platforms, as it is guaranteed revenue compared to theatrical, which is highly risky and not dependable. Take, for example, a recent hyped film that collapsed at the box-office on its release day itself. The producer had not pre-sold the OTT rights, as he wanted a higher price. Now, the same OTT platform is refusing to buy it even after producer offered them a 50% discount on his earlier price.

A spokesperson of a leading OTT platform explained, “Today, the performance of a film on an OTT platform depends largely on its theatrical box-office success. Those films we buy in Tamil before release are only films of the superstars with guaranteed returns. Other hero films depend on the price and terms (mainly the number of days of theatrical to online release) offered before release.” This comes at a time when Vijay’s under-production Thalapathy 64 streaming rights have already been picked up by Amazon Prime for a record price.

Last week, the niche curated streaming service MUBI entered the India market with a tie-up with PVR Cinemas. Subscribers to the streamer get a free ticket to PVR screens every week with a hand-picked film. Efe Cakarel, Founder and CEO of MUBI, said, “India is an exciting market for streaming channels. Our members can now not only watch hand-picked films online but also in cinemas across PVR properties. Cinema theatres and streaming platforms have to co-exist with a clear window drawn out.”

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2020 7:12:22 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/whats-the-future-for-cinema/article30180818.ece

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