Even as Vikram Bhatt’s horror film, 1921, released on January 12, many fans had to go back home disappointed as the movie wasn’t playing at some multiplexes. The reason — the biggest multiplex chains of the country came together and decided against screening the film, because the film’s producer and distributor, Reliance Entertainment, didn’t accede to one demand.
For sometime now, multiplexes have been subject to a major slowdown. 2017’s gross reports show that the overall business by Hindi films has come down by Rs 500 crore in the last four years — from around Rs 3,300 crore in 2013 to Rs 2,800 crore in 2017. And this, despite humongous hits like Baahubali 2, Dangal and Tiger Zinda Hai recently. Interestingly, the same time period saw significant revenue shift towards digital rights — a concept non-existent a few years ago.
Multiplexes have come down heavily on the fact that films are finding their way to over-the-top (OTT) media platforms quicker than what they deem healthy.
Rajender Singh, Head of Programming, Inox Cinemas, comments, “This isn’t a new rule. Earlier, a film wasn’t available on TV for almost a year. Of course, things have changed now with new revenue streams. But some producers have started flouting this rule and release their films on other platforms soon after release.”
Renowned producer Mukesh Bhatt has his own take on this. He says, “It is unfair for theatres to put in such clauses and hamper a producer’s chances of making money. We agree that a film should be held for a while before it is available on other platforms. But exhibitors and producers should come together and discuss it. This isn’t just one party’s problem. It is a collective problem we need to solve as a family.”
He also believes that it is unfair that a film as small as 1921 is being looked at with the same parameters as larger films. “Today, a film barely runs at theatres for two weeks. Even a Salman Khan movie is more or less over in four weeks. In such a scenario, it doesn’t help if a film is held from digital release for eight weeks. Films get pirated. So, should a producer wait for piracy to hamper chances on OTT platforms? Maybe there could be a separate understanding drawn on each film,” he reasons.
Rajender, however, points out to the other side of the same coin. “This is a content- driven industry. We have enough examples of how many star-driven films haven’t lasted more than four weeks, but a contentdriven small film sustains over eight weeks. We really cannot predetermine the tenure of a film!” he says.
Well-known trade pundit Amod Mehra weighs both options and agrees that theatres need help. He opines, “We often blame theatres for hiking ticket costs and not allowing food inside, but no one thinks about their overheads. The cost of operating a theatre in prime areas could well be about a crore a month. So it is natural they feel the pinch when the audience decides to watch the movies on OTT platforms instead. It is important that movies are held back till the theatrical run.”
Thankfully for the producers of 1921, and the viewers, the issue was sorted out by Friday afternoon with the film going back to the theatres. “We are hoping we come to an agreement and sustain it without any breach,” says Rajender.
For now, all’s well that ends well but with the mushrooming of OTT platforms and the ease of accessibility they offer, something must soon be worked out between both the parties in question here....