Why are film producers and theaters at loggerheads?
The film business, much like the entire world right now, is a hullabaloo of uncertainty and anxiety. But lately, the pandemic has started to test everyone's patience. In this unprecedented scenario, the production and the exhibition sectors of the entertainment world are not just disagreeing but are fighting it out in the open. But what led to this? Here, we discuss.
With indefinite closure of theaters across the country, both theater chains as well as movie producers are looking at insurmountable losses. And while multiplex/theater companies cannot do much about it, the producers have one viable option in their kitty: to release their films directly on a digital platform. However, as can be predicted, theater owners are not taking it in good spirits.
The row between the two parties commenced after it became known that some of the most anticipated movies of the year, including Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushmann Khurrana-starrer Gulabo Sitabo and Vidya Balan's Shakuntala Devi, will skip a theatrical run and release directly on Amazon Prime.
Soon after the announcement was made, two of the biggest theater chains in India, PVR and INOX expressed their disapproval. "We are disappointed with Gulabo Sitabo's decision to go straight to a streaming platform," PVR's CEO said. Meanwhile, INOX termed the move as "alarming and disconcerting". The company went ahead to warn that it could take "retributive measures" against producers who are going digital.
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
In its response, the Producers Guild of India said that "it is disappointing to see abrasive and unconstructive messaging from some of our colleagues in the exhibition sector," adding that digital release of movies is the need of the hour. The Guild noted that it is important for all members of the movie supply chain to understand each other's predicament.
Statement from Producers Guild of India pic.twitter.com/WCeX3zMlsh— producersguildindia (@producers_guild) May 15, 2020
Meanwhile, Ronnie Lahiri, co-producer of Gulabo Sitabo opined that one has to adapt according to the changing times. 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."
Let inox release what % of their revenue is ticket sales vs FB.FB is based on ticket sales, no one goes to a theatre to eat,Right? Start sharing that revenue with producers as well, before accusing them for trying to survive in a world pandemic never witnessed before by mankind— kunal kohli (@kunalkohli) 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.
While exhibitors are tensed that digital release may become the new normal, it should be understood that for some producers, it is the only way to survive in the industry at such an uncertain stage. As and when cinemas re-open, major movies will fight for a release date, and smaller to medium films will suffer. Somehow, the pandemic is only fast-tracking what was imminent.