First Day, First Show: Can Reliance Jio draw movie buffs away from the big screen?

Meenakshi Verma Ambwani New Delhi | Updated on August 14, 2019

Fun time Theatres have more relevance as a family social meeting point than just being movie exhibition centres, says an industry player   -  V Sreenivasa Murthy

Multiplexes, theatre owners defend their territory, say the cinema experience is more than just watching movies

Reliance Jio’s plans to offer ‘First Day First Show’ service for premium JioFiber customers by next year has shifted the spotlight on multiplexes and cinema-theatre owners.

Will Jio service be able to pull the movie buffs away from the big screen? Analysts say it will be interesting to see how the content strategy for the ‘First Day First Show’ service shapes up. But the multiplex industry insists that theatrical and at-home experiences are completely different and have co-existed for decades and will continue to do so.

“It is not yet clear whether the company will offer movies made by a certain set of studios and focus on certain genres or it intends to get all kinds of movies released through this service,” a industry executive said.

The focus is on the exclusive theatrical window model, which has been a cornerstone of film distribution, globally. Depending on mutually agreed terms between movie producers and multiplexes, an exclusive theatrical window of about eight weeks is maintained before the movie is released on another platform, as per multiplex players.

According to a report by FICCI-EY, domestic theatrical revenues touched the ₹10,210-crore mark in 2018 and is estimated to grow to about ₹13,000 crore by 2021.

Theatrical window model

Jehil Thakkar, Partner, Deloitte India, pointed out that the theatrical window model is also market economy driven. “If a movie performs well at the box office, its TV and digital release is likely to be delayed by producers. On the other hand, if a movie’s performance at the box office is muted, it tends to get a quicker release on other platforms for better monetisation,” he added.

Content makers are also increasingly adopting differentiated strategies to leverage on the emergence of new platforms beyond multiplexes and television. Ashish Pherwani, Partner and Media & Entertainment Leader, EY India, said, “I believe the theatrical window model of a film product is continuously changing with the emergence of new formats and technologies. But there cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach and it will depend on a case-to-case basis and on the content makers’ strategy to leverage on various platforms for monetisation.”

“For instance, if there is a high-impact big budget movie that is likely to be a big draw for the big screen, the producers will choose to first release it in the cinemas. If its a low take-up movie, which isn't likely to get a lot of footfalls in the multiplexes, they will look at launching it first digitally. There are several factors at play,” he added.

Stating that it remains extremely buoyant about cinema exhibition’s growth prospects, leading multiplex chain PVR said, “For decades, theatrical release window has been a valuable model for exhibitors and producers alike. In India and globally, producers have respected the release windows and kept a sacrosanct gap between the theatrical release date and the date of release on all other platforms.”

It said cinemas continue to “deliver a robust box office performance not just in growing markets such as India but also in the more matured markets such as the US, China, Europe etc. where cinemas have regularly competed with many similar initiatives, e.g. Netflix Original Movies etc.”

Multiplex players also see a huge opportunity in opening screens in tier-2, tier- 3 and tier-4 markets. The industry believes that the cinema experience is more than just watching movies.

Family bonding

PV Sunil, Managing Director, Carnival Cinemas, said, “theatres have got more relevance as a family social meeting point than just being a movie exhibition center and the relevance from that point of view will never diminish. Our purpose is to take the people outside of their homes and provide them a complete package of movies, good food, fun for children and ultimately a great time for family bonding.”

Published on August 14, 2019

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