Mind the gap: Theatre to OTT release window increased
With the gap between theatrical and digital release of films revised to eight weeks starting August 1, industry players hope for better days ahead
Gone are the days when one had to wait months after a movie releases, to watch it at the comfort of home. Since cinema halls reopened in November last year, the window of releasing films on OTT platforms was reduced from eight to four weeks. However, this ignited several debates on how the OTT release impacts the theatrical potential of feature films. Hence, multiplex associations and exhibitors announced that starting August 1, there will once again be an eight-week window between the theatrical and OTT release of films.
Shamshera and Ek Villain Returns may be the last two films to hit streaming platforms four weeks after their theatrical release on July 22 and 29, respectively. Films that may have to adhere to the new norms include Laal Singh Chaddha, Raksha Bandhan (both slated for release on August 11), Liger (August 25), Brahmastra (September 9), Vikram Vedha and Ponniyan Selvan I (both releasing on September 30).
“I think it’s a fantastic decision,” says trade analyst Taran Adarsh, adding, “I’ve always told producers that there has to be an eight-week window. It shrunk to four weeks owing to the pandemic, and this was only killing the business, because people thought, ‘Why should we pay ₹400-500 for a movie ticket if after four weeks, the movie will be available on OTT?’.”
Kamal Gianchandani, CEO of PVR Pictures, says the reduction of the window from eight to four weeks was a temporary measure, and hence, after discussing with all relevant stakeholders, the older norm was put back in place. “The theatrical business has started looking up. Eight weeks is a fair window. It will help not just exhibitors, but also producers, distributors and even the streaming platforms,” he observes.
Echoing similar sentiments, film producer and business expert Girish Johar says reinstating the eight-week window was “bound to happen”. “If you see the macro trends, things are coming back to normalcy. The South film industries took a similar decision a couple of weeks ago. Now, the Hindi film fraternity has also taken a similar decision. So basically, the fraternity is saying we want to monetise all possible rights available, give due weightage to each and that’s the reason they have gone back to the eight-week window,” he adds.
Also welcoming the move is Devang Sampat, CEO, Cinepolis India, who says, “The eight-week window provides time for patrons to enjoy a movie in theatres before they’re available on OTT platforms. It also provides everyone in the value chain, from producers to distributors and OTT platforms, a more viable commercial proposition.”
Kartik Aaryan-starrer Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2, directed by Anees Bazmee, not only had the biggest opening weekend of the year (theatrical release on May 20), amassing a worldwide collection of over ₹ 230 crore, but has also crossed the 50-day mark at the box office. “Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 is available on OTT now, but is doing good business in theatres as well. Yet, if I am getting an option to watch something on OTT or pay to watch in theatres, I would choose the former. Had there been a gap of eight weeks, the film would have done better [in theatres] than it did,” says Bazmee.
However, Vivek Agnihotri feels eight weeks is also too short a window. The filmmaker, whose film The Kashmir Files ranks as the highest grosser of 2022 so far, raking in ₹339.49 crore, says, “The gap [between theatrical and OTT release] should be at least six to nine months. This four or eight-week window means nothing, because most movies definitely run for four or five weeks in theatres. But, because they are going to come on OTT, people don’t go to theatres to watch them. Box office suffers, and because of that, producers start believing they should put all their efforts into satellite rights or OTT... I think too much dependency on OTT or satellite rights is affecting the quality of our scripts.”