Variety

Good content eludes theatres even as OTT players up the ante

NARAYANAN V Chennai | Updated on January 15, 2021 Published on January 15, 2021

OTT platforms kick off new year with strong line-up of movies, originals and web series

Even as theatres are struggling to pull audiences back to cinemas amid health concerns and the dearth of fresh content, over-the-top (OTT) players are upping their content game.

They are coming up with a strong line-up of Hindi and other Indian language movies in addition to the ever-increasing list of platform originals and big star-cast web series.

OTT players kicked off 2021 with a bang. From Arjun Rampal’s Nail Polish to Salman Khan-produced Kaagaz and Madhavan-starrer Maara, they are dishing out fresh content by the dozen.

Besides, Kajol's Tribhanga released on Netflix on January 15 while Tamil star Jayam Ravi's Bhoomi released on Disney+ Hotstar on January 14 to coincide with Pongal.

On the other hand, theatres don't have too many films to showcase. Film exhibitors across the country are pinning their hope on Vijay's Master to pull the crowds back to cinemas. The movie, originally scheduled for release in April 2020 but postponed due to the pandemic, hit the big screens in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi across the country on Wednesday.

Vicious cycle

“Theatre footfalls are low because bigger movies are not releasing and bigger movies are not releasing because footfalls are low. This cycle has to break at some point,” said Hiren Gada, CEO of Shemaroo Entertainment. “A lot of people are looking forward to Master. If this movie gets a good response, other movies lined up for release will also come, which will help turn the cycle positive.”

While there is a strong-line up of ready-to-release Bollywood films such as Akshay Kumar's Sooryavanshi, Ranvir Singh’s 83, Ranbir Kapoor-Alia Bhatt starrer Brahmastra and a dozen small-budget films, none has announced a release date yet. Poor footfalls in theatres due to the Covid scare and 50 per cent seating restrictions are forcing producers to hold back their releases.

“New films have started releasing in theatres as well. However, it might take some time for the industry to get back to the hectic release schedule that we were used to until early 2020,” said Neeraj Roy, founder and CEO, Hungama Digital Media. “OTT platforms continue to offer users a safe and convenient way to watch content. Most of us work in advance to ensure a steady flow of content and, with shoots already resuming, we can expect more shows and movies to release digitally in the coming few months.”

OTT originals

The entertainment company’s OTT platform Hungama Play, for instance, intends to release 18-20 original shows in 2021 across six Indian languages.

In addition to films, OTT platforms also have an interesting line-up of big-star cast web-series such as Saif Ali Khan's Tandav (Amazon Prime) and Priyanka Chopra's The White Tiger (Netflix) scheduled for release this month.

Theatres, on the other hand, saw fewer releases such as Silambarasan's Eeswaran (Tamil) and Ram Pothineni's Red (Telugu) on January 14 and Bolo Hau (Hindi) on January 15.

“Another reason theatres witnessed fewer footfalls is lack of content. UFO Moviez promises to offer at least one movie every week, we aim to revive our theatres with interesting line-ups including big and small-budget films,” said Siddharth Bhardwaj, Group Enterprise Sales Head and CMO, UFO Moviez. “By March, we are expecting things to change for theatres — there will be great content coming across multiple languages.”

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Published on January 15, 2021
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