Though there is no doubt theatres will be winners as nothing in the world gives the joy of watching a movie on big screen, OTT has now become a new revenue making avenue for the film industry
Covid-19 has created a market which many OTT players were expecting only in 2023-24. In other words, the disruption has already begun in the Indian premium OTT space with Disney+ Hotstar announcing seven films to release on its platform.
Though there is no doubt theatres will be winners as nothing in the world gives the joy of watching a movie on big screen, OTT has now become a new revenue making avenue for the film industry.
“Producers who have already invested heavily in their films with theatrical revenue assumptions that are no longer feasible, will seek out all avenues available to recover their investment and to stay in business,” the Producers Guild of India had said in a statement last month.
Disney+ Hotstar is set to premiere seven Bollywood movies — which were originally slated for theatrical releases — from July 24 onwards, in a move that could intensify the battle between theatre owners and video streaming applications over movie releases.
These movies will be streamed between July and October this year, starting with late Sushant Singh Rajput-starrer ‘Dil Bechara’ on July 24. Other movies include Akshay Kumar-Kiara Advani’s ‘Laxmmi Bomb’, Alia Bhatt-Aditya Roy Kapur-starrer ‘Sadak 2’, Abhishek Bachchan’s ‘The Big Bull’, Vidyut Jammwal’s ‘Khuda Haafiz’, Ajay Devgn-Sanjay Dutt’s ‘Bhuj’ and Kunal Khemu’s ‘Lootcase’.
This comes after similar deals by rivals Amazon Prime Video that picked up seven Bollywood and regional films including Amitabh Bachchan-Ayushmann Khurrana’s ‘Gulabo Sitabo’ and Vidya Balan starrer ‘Shakuntala Devi’ for a direct-to-digital premiere and Netflix that picked up Janhvi Kapoor starrer ‘Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl’.
‘Dil Bechara’ will be the first movie to premiere on Disney+ Hotstar, and in a bid to “commemorate late Sushant Singh Rajput’s invaluable contribution to Hindi cinema,” this movie will be available to non-subscribers of Disney+ Hotstar as well, the company said. The movie also features Sanjana Sanghi and Saif Ali Khan.
“Today as we launch Disney+Hotstar Multiplex, we find ourselves yet again at the cusp of making a revolutionary change by bringing the biggest Bollywood movies directly to millions across the country… Theatres are a special experience. So, they will always exist and thrive. But the potential of the industry can’t be capped by the number of release windows and theatres available. Our initiative will dramatically increase the number of films that can be made, giving film-lovers more films to enjoy and the creative community more films to make. We firmly believe that this will generate a massive momentum for more and different kinds of films to be made in India. It’s a win-win for all,” said Uday Shankar, President, The Walt Disney Company APAC, and Chairman, Star & Disney India.
“In the future, theatres and OTT will move in parallel. Both options offer their own strengths,” said Ajay Devgn, who will be seen in Bhuj: The Pride of India.
Hotstar, the largest OTT player in the country after Jio (35.5 per cent market share) with over 30 per cent share of the market, continues to attract more audiences, compared to global leaders like Netflix (9.2 per cent) and Amazon Prime (14.8 per cent) in India.
This move comes at a time when the ~20,000-crore-a-year Indian film industry is badly hit by lockdown of multiplexes and single-screen theatres —leaving it with no other avenue but to try and monetise the OTT platform.
There is still uncertainty over when movie theatres will be allowed to reopen across the country, after they were forced to shutdown in March this year, due to the Covid-19-induced lockdown. While the government has eased restrictions for businesses across various sectors, it is yet to provide a specific date for reopening of cinema halls.
According to estimates, there are over 250-million OTT users in India. This number is expected to surpass 450 million by 2022.