Hollywood is looking at changing the dynamic of the movie business. In the latest development, US theatre chain AMC has signed a deal with Universal Pictures, which states that their films can be made available on Premium Video-on-Demand (PVoD) after minimum 17 days of theatrical release!

This reduced window has certainly led to varied reactions from different stakeholders.

Explaining what this move really means, Reliance Entertainment CEO Shibashish Sarkar says, “The 90% revenue comes in the first three weeks, so whoever wants to have the big screen experience may have that. And also, it’s not subscription VOD, like the OTT platforms in India. In this, you have to buy that particular film, and pay for that one only. You can’t watch anything else,” he says.

He feels that this may have a long-term impact on the theatre-going audience’s mind set. “After three weeks, you can see a film at a particular price, at home. It will reduce audience’s going to theatres. My personal belief is that both platforms will flourish. Also, PVoD will be more expensive than a cinema ticket. Overall in the current situation, people are not sure when they will come to theatres, producers are not able to make films as the earlier ones have not released. It will be a positive situation once they start releasing,” says Sarkar. 

Film exhibitor Akshaye Rathi, feels that even if PVoD is pricier, people might prefer that. “You can have 20 people at home through PVoD, it’s not per person, but per viewing. The erosion into theatrical business can be pretty massive, details are awaited,” he says.

WHAT IF IT HAPPENS IN INDIA?

The theatre business has been impacted massively as they have been shut for four months now in India. Since revenue sharing is also a part of the AMC- Universal deal, it might just give a new lease of life to theatres. But director Anurag Basu doesn’t see this happening in India anytime soon.

“All the things that start from US, take eight-10 years to come to India, I am generalising, like DVD, TV or digital. When DVDs came, everybody thought theatres will get affected, as they are cheap. Theatres have never died. It’s a different experience altogether, and can’t be equal to watching a film on a laptop. This is a temporary crisis, once everything is over, people will flock to theatres. These are temporary arrangements, I don’t think it will be permanent. It won’t happen in India unless OTT platforms started owning theatres,” tells us the Barfi! (2013) director.

Ajit Andhare, COO, Viacom18 Studios too feels it is unlikely to come to India. “I don’t think theatres would be open to doing something like this. It’s also important to which film title this applies. Big titles like Sooryavanshi are still not there on streaming platforms. I don’t think it will immediately change things across the world. What happens in Hollywood, it gradually takes effect over a period of time,” he tells us. 

While the Indian audience isn’t exactly too familiar with what PVoD really means, we all have been exposed to it in the form of pay-per-view films on our DTH platforms. Sarkar says he would look forward to this kind of model back home, “I am looking forward if the opportunity crops up in India. We don’t have a specific pay per view, it’s niche. The only concept we know is our DTH providers, where we pay say Rs 100 to watch a film. It’s very much possible. We will all be keen to see a situation open up in India. There will be resistance from the cinema chain’s perspective.”

IMPACT ON THEATRES

Rathi feels the repercussions of such a model where films are available in the comfort of your home, (even if the title is still playing in theatres) “can’t be calculated”. He tells us, “By the looks of it, it looks like a deal which will drastically impact theatres. It’s tough to imagine why AMC would have done this. I don’t know how will consumption play out, and whether through those revenues (which the theatre chain will get as part of revenue sharing) theatres will be able to cover running expenses.”

Trade analyst Taran Adarsh is sure that this news must have sent ‘shockwaves’ across the US film industry. “Now when films are releasing directly on OTT platforms instead of theatres due to lockdown, it has raised a lot of eyebrows in India. There was a big halla as far as the industry is concerned, with the biggest of stars coming in. Till now there has been a clear understanding between theatrical and satellite/ OTT viewing. If it’s come down to 17 days, God save the theatres. The Amercian model is very different. I am sure even there it must have raised eyebrows, in the exhibition sector specially,” he says.

He goes on to question what happens to the films not doing well. “Event films can continue running, what would happen to unsuccessful films? When you hear 17 days, you are in a shock,” he signs off.

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