Unlock impact: Are we headed for a battle of the screens?

Nandana James Mumbai | Updated on October 08, 2020

People’s enthusiasm may be a bit subdued initially as the pandemic fear remains   -  REUTERS

As theatres open, all eyes will be on the OTT versus cinema hall film openings

As curtains go up on October 15, when theatres and multiplexes reopen, the big question is will they be able to pull in cinema goers or will audiences prefer to stick to the OTT (over the top) platforms, where the show has gone on all through Covid-19?

All hinges on whether Sooryavanshi and 83, the two most-awaited films of the year, get released on the big screens during Diwali. All eyes are on the screens — big and small — to see if movie makers who chose to release their films over OTT during lockdown will now reverse the trend. Experts, however, feel that when halls reopen, small-budget and niche films may continue to take the direct-OTT release route, while big-budget films will go full blast with theatrical releases.


Lloyd Mathias, Business Strategist and Early Stage investor, feels that despite Covid protocols of limiting the audience size at theatres, people’s enthusiasm and response may be a bit subdued initially as the pandemic fear remains. “So, it’s unlikely that the big releases will happen immediately. In that sense, not much is going to change in the near term,” he feels.

More digital-first films

“Movies performed well on OTT platforms in terms of garnering viewership and it will continue,” says Ali Hussein, CEO of Eros Now. “Moreover, apart from acquiring movies, OTT platforms have also started producing movies. We anticipate there will be a smallish correction on the overall growth post complete unlock (lifting of lockdown restrictions and reopening of theatres); however, growth of viewership on both mobile screens and in-home viewing would continue,” he says.

Hussein also feels there will be many more standalone digital original films in the future, accelerating the lockdown phenomenon of opening up opportunities for more story driven films.

Shailesh Kapoor, Founder & CEO, Ormax Media, a media consulting firm, feels that OTT platforms will be looking at launching more web-series once big films start releasing in theatres. While big budget films will prefer to release theatrically, the business model of selling films to OTT directly will encourage a lot of studios to make films in tight budgets for a direct OTT release, said Kapoor. “So, we can expect a lot more made-for-OTT films in 2022 in India,” he added.

Certain franchise driven films are made for offline viewing — which is meant for more of a family outing — while a large number of niche and interesting topics will get visibility as digital original films, affirmed Hussein, when asked if he expects the trend of theatrical film releases streaming on OTT platforms to cease with the reopening of theatres.

The gap between a film’s theatrical release and release on OTT — which has traditionally been eight weeks — may diminish or become near simultaneous, as producers can balance their film's release according to their strategies, said Mathias.

“So, producers may be able to make as much, if not more, from a release on OTT platforms as they would if they went through the traditional distributor/ theatre route,” he added.

Published on October 06, 2020

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