During the lockdown, India has started to witness a historical shift in content consumption patterns.
While producers are looking at different avenues to release their impending films in hope to cover up for the losses, exhibitors are not happy with it. Apart from the appeal by the Multiplex Association of India (MAI) to release their films only in theatres once the pandemic subsidies, exhibitors have complained of not even being included in the process.
Akshaye Rathi, member of Vidharbha Exhibitors Group, expressed his resent and said, "It's unfortunate that partnership that has supported and existed with each other beautifully for over a century are not thinking of the repel effects their actions can have. We understand the financial constraint, but the least we expect is an engagement with us. At least try and find a solution before pulling the plugs on it."
"The cost to maintain screens by big private chains and even single exhibitors spread across multiple properties is a huge load since 100% salaries is being given to the employees. We are giving money from our pockets, so the least we expect is sensitivity. The entire sector has turned hostile. If you see what Karan Johar, Subasheesh Sarkar or Yash Raj have to say, all of them have realised that it is about the next 20 years and not the next two quarters. So it takes visionaries and not traders to see the long term consequences," he added.
Trade Analyst Girish Johar agrees that both sides need to earn their bread and butter. "The unorganised chains and owners haven't been able to pay salaries. At the same time, even producers have put their mortgages at stake. If giant producers like Sony are giving away movies like Shakuntala Devi, how we can expect other individual producers to withhold?"
Atul Mohan, film trade analyst, thinks that both sides are helpless. "There is an absolute uncertainty on the guidelines and occupancy even if the cinemas open. Multiplexes have their own reasons to cry foul due to their huge investment and infrastructures being involved. But for how long can we expect producers to hold on if they are getting lucrative offers."
Komal Nahta said, "This is the way you ought to do business. If the producer feels like selling it to the OTT platform, so be it. If in a room of two only one can survive, how can they say let's all die together. It may sound selfish, but that is life."
Johar says that this is being done on an experimental basis as OTT giants try to "draw more subscribers". "If it's a success, they will have to co-exist. But no one is taking away anything from the other. India has crossed big hurdles like VCR, DVD's and what not. But it comes back again. Movie watching in India is a social activity and as they say, cinema is recession-proof," he said.
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