Theater owners angry over digital release of 'Gulabo Sitabo'
As theaters remain indefinitely shuttered due to the coronavirus pandemic, producers are eyeing newer ways to keep their projects afloat. In such an unprecedented scenario, a direct-to-digital release seems a feasible choice, but of course not the most indisputable one. Only yesterday, Gulabo Sitabo became the first big-ticket film to be out directly on a streaming platform. Predictably, theater owners aren't happy at all.
Shoojit Sircar's Gulabo Sitabo has been acquired by Amazon Prime Video India for an exclusive release on the platform this June. The film, starring biggies like Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushmann Khurrana, was earlier set to arrive in theaters on April 17. The producers' decision to skip a theatrical run hasn't gone down well with theater chains, including big players like PVR Cinemas and INOX.
Kamal Gianchandani, CEO of PVR, the largest cinema chain in India, told HuffPost India, "We are disappointed with Gulabo Sitabo's decision to go straight to a streaming platform." He added they were hoping that producers would heed their request to hold back the release of the film until cinemas reopened. However, there is little hope that malls/cinemas would be allowed to reopen anytime soon.
Lashing out at Rising Sun Films (which has produced Gulabo Sitabo), INOX said that it would like to express "extreme displeasure and disappointment" on the decision. It added that the move to deviate from the "globally prevalent content windowing practice is alarming and disconcerting." The company went ahead to warn that it could take "retributive measures" against "such fair-weather friends."
STATEMENT BY INOX ON A PRODUCTION HOUSE’S ANNOUNCEMENT TO RELEASE THEIR MOVIE ON AN OTT PLATFORM BY SKIPPING THE THEATRICAL RUN pic.twitter.com/NfqoYV2QRx— INOX Leisure Ltd. (@INOXMovies) May 14, 2020
"Of course a film is a producer's baby so they have the right to release whatever way they want to, but this is a precedent, whose impact is going to be negative in the exhibition sector," leading film exhibitor Akshaye Rathi noted.
Meanwhile, Ronnie Lahiri, co-producer of Gulabo Sitabo said skipping theaters was a tough decision. He said, "We're facing a once-in-a-lifetime phenomena, not seen since World War 2. These are the times when things change. Initially, people have apprehensions but one has to adapt... Instead of waiting for the situation to get better, you tackle it with other alternatives."
Exhibitors are now anticipating more such announcements in the future. "I am sure soon there will be many more announcements of such nature. And with that, exhibitors will have to come together to recalibrate," said Rathi. In fact, many major releases such as Akshay Kumar's Laxmmi Bomb, Anurag Basu's anthology film Ludo, and Nagraj Manjule's Jhund are also expected to take the digital route.