The Amitabh Bachchan-Ayushmann Khurrana starrer Gulabo Sitabo shows that the direct-to-digital-release way can profitably work for Bollywood films made at a restrained budget, at a time the industry is reeling under the after-effects of shutdown owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, big ticket Bollywood entertainers are still maintaining distance from OTT release, and would prefer to wait for cinema halls to reopen.
Lined up for OTT premieres after Gulabo Sitabo, over the next several movies are small to medium budget films such as the Vidya Balan-starrer Shakuntala Devi and Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl.
Other films whose names are doing the rounds are the Alia Bhatt-starrer Sadak 2, Ajay Devgn's Bhuj: The Pride Of India, Anurag Basu's Ludo, Khaali Peeli starring Ishaan Khatter and Ananya Panday, Shershaah starring Sidharth Malhotra, the Abhishek Bachchan-starrer The Big Bull, Mimi starring Kriti Sanon, the Kunal Kemmu-starrer Lootcase, the Kiara Advani-starrer Indoo Ki Jawaani, and Roohi Afzana featuring Rajkummar Rao.
The late actor Sushant Singh Rajput's upcoming film Dil Bechara was also being considered for a direct to OTT release, according to reports.
Unconfirmed reports have also indicated that the Akshay Kumar-starrer Laxmmi Bomb is in line for a direct-to-OTT release, although nothing is confirmed. Rumours suggest the makers of the film are asking for a steep price of well over Rs 100 crore to sell the right for direct OTT premiere, owing to the presence of superstar Akshay.
In fact, streaming platform Amazon Prime Video, in a bid to revolutionise the way we might watch films in the future, recently confirmed films across five Indian languages for digital release.
Their direct-to-home menu features the recently-released Tamil legal drama Ponmagal Vandhal starring Jyotika, the Keerthy Suresh starrer Penguin (Tamil and Telugu), Sufiyum Sujatayum (Malayalam) starring Aditi Rao Hydari, Law (Kannada) starring Ragini Chandran and Siri Prahlad, and Danish Sait's next film French Biryani (Kannada).
A small and moderate budget is the string that connects the films switching to OTT route as cinemas remain shut amid the virus crisis.
One report claimed that the OTT platform bought the premiere rights of Gulabo Sitabo for Rs 60-65 crore, which means that the makers made profit of around Rs 30-35 crore with the film, said to be made on an approximate budget of Rs 30 crore.
"The value or the impact will not get lost because it was released on a digital platform instead of theatre.. Yes, I started the film with an aim to release on a cinema platform, but the situation is like this that I had to experiment with the digital platform.. At some point I had to experiment with digital and I was looking for it. Every film has its own destiny and the destiny of ‘Gulabo Sitabo' was a digital premiere at Amazon Prime Video," director Shoojit Sircar told IANS.
Digital world, however, does not seem to be enticing the biggies. Makers of much-anticipated films such as 83 and Sooryanvanshi have assured cinema owners that they will release their films in theatres first.
"That's because they get good revenue from theatres," Raj Kumar Mehrotra, general manager at Delhi's Delite Cinema, told IANS.
To this, trade analyst Girish Johar added: "The films that are coming on OTT are somewhat premium content. These are not big tentpole releases. Hollywood is following the same thing. Marvel Studios has pushed all the tentpole movies to 2021. OTT can't be a revenue platform for buying Rs 200 crore film. In the case of OTT platforms, it is the time when they can get maximum subscribers as everyone is at home, that's why they are buying new films. Cinemas need not fear as there would be jump once everything is normal, and the window will be respected by the makers as well.
"Once lockdown is over and safety precautions in place, theatrical revenue will jump by more than 20 per cent because there is a lot of pent up demand," Girish added.
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