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OTT platforms are trying to simulate going-to-the-movies experience for film enthusiasts at home

NARAYANAN V Chennai | Updated on August 26, 2020

Missing the fun of booking movie tickets online? Missing those Friday premieres in theatres with your family and friends? Worry not. While the days of munching those cheesy popcorn or slurping soft drinks inside the dark movie halls seem to be months away, some players in the entertainment industry are trying to recreate at least a part of the movie going experience in the comfort of your home.

Media and entertainment company Shemaroo Entertainment recently launched ShemarooMe Box Office, a transactional video on demand (TVOD) feature on its OTT platform under which viewers can purchase a movie for ₹80-100 for a three-day viewing.

Taking the movie booking experience a step further, it also partnered with online ticket aggregator, where viewers can book their tickets for these films and watch them on the ShemarooMe app. With one new film every Friday, Shemaroo has already released four films - Crime My Client’s Wife, Scotland, Sharman Joshi-starrer Least of These, and an action-thriller Hidden Strike - starting from July 31.

Movie booking experience apart. At a time when OTT platforms are fighting for eyeballs with a wide array of contents at a competitive subscription fee, will the audience be willing to pay for a single movie? Can pay-per-view models make a dent in India?

“Subscription-based models have scaled up in a big way over the last 2-3 years and people have got used to it but the transaction model is something new to India,” Hiren Gada, CEO, Shemaroo Entertainment said, adding, “We believe that in the current covid situation, where theatres are not operating, this would provide an alternative platform for the producers to unlock films while audience will get a new content every week.”

Pay-per-view is quite famous in international markets like the US, Australia, Hongkong and Singapore. Disney, for instance, recently announced that its big-ticket film Mulan will have a theatrical release on September 4. It also said the movie will be available to Disney Plus subscribers on the same day for a cost of $30. So, can Indian producers, whose movies are also stuck due to the five-month long theatre shutdown tap this avenue?

While subscription-based OTT platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime or Disney Hotstar+ have witnessed a rapid rise in user base and viewership ever since the lockdown, the focus of these platforms also seems to be high profile titles like Akshay Kumar’s Laxxmi Bomb or Amitabh Bachchan’s Gulabo Sitabo or the much-hyped Sushant Singh Rajput’s Dil Bechara. Small-budget or middle-of-the-road films are ignored by the platforms. Shemaroo aims to address this section by providing a new monetisation model for the filmmakers and to help small movies get more visibility.

“Even in the post-covid scenario when theatres open up, there may be a lot of movies which are well appreciated but could not stay in theaters for long due upcoming big blockbuster movies so we are providing an additional monetisation route for filmmakers,” Gada said.

While the prospects of TVOD models in India is still unclear, many players are jumping onto the TVOD bandwagon. Last month, Ram Gopal Varma released Powerstar - a satire film on Pawan Kalyan’s political journey in RGV World theatre priced at ₹150 per view. Tamil film producer CV Kumar also launched Regal Talkies - a pay-per-view OTT app in July aimed at ‘supporting and promoting budding talents, micro budget Filmmakers and investors. More recently, Planet Marathi, an OTT platform, also announced that it would launch ‘Ticket Window’ - a select pay-per-view format from September to help thousands of small Marathi film producers to stay afloat

Producer and distributor G Dhananjayan said while any new avenue for filmmakers to make money is welcome, the fundamental question is whether such avenues will be able to bring money or not.

“Expecting people to watch an unknown hero film in VOD is very challenging,” Dhananjayan said, adding, “Just like box office, people will be excited to watch only if it’s a big artist or highly expected film and that too when there are lot of financial tightness, it is very difficult to say if people will spend to watch a single film.”

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Published on August 26, 2020
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