Producers, Multiplexes Spar Over ‘Gulabo Sitabo’ OTT Release

The Producers Guild of India responds to Inox’s statement criticising deals between producers and OTT platforms.

Updated
Bollywood
3 min read
<i>Gulabo Sitabo </i>and <i>Shakuntala Devi </i>to have their world premiere on Amazon Prime Video.
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The entertainment industry is facing an unprecedented challenge with the lockdown post the COVID-19 outbreak. As cinema halls and multiplexes across the country having shut down, with no clear date of when screening of films will resume, producers have now struck deals with OTT platforms to release films directly to home for viewing. There is no way that the producers will be able rake in the profits they would have with a theatrical release, but given the current scenario, they would rather release a film that’s ready and just break even.

The biggest film yet to have gone directly on OTT is Shoojit Sircar’s Gulabo Sitabo, a film starring Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushmann Khurrana. Written by Juhi Chaturvedi, Gulabo Sitabo is scheduled to release on Amazon Prime Video on 12 June.

After the official announcement of the film’s OTT world premiere was made, multiplex chain Inox released a rather strong statement on Thursday, criticising the deal. Calling the producers “fair-weather friends”, the multiplex chain said that they would be “constrained to examine its options, and reservers all rights, including taking retributive measures, in dealing with such fair-weather friends.”

The note ends with Inox stating that they would, “urge all content creators not to skip the theatrical run, and stay with the age old and established windowing pattern, which is in the best interests of all stake holders in the value chain.”

Following Inox’s statement, the Producers Guild of India has on Friday released a response, which calls the multiplexes call on the issue “abrasive and unconstructive”. The PGI says that the film production sector is suffering thousands of crores of losses on a daily basis.

In brief, the PGI says that producers are facing huge losses and have been forced to enter into release deals with OTT platforms due to the following factors:

  • Loss of money on under-production films that are stalled with sets erected because insurers are not covering the cost.
  • Interest rates are mounting on finances raised to produce films already.
  • Re-opening of cinema halls, multiplexes across the country will be staggered depending on state governments, hence no clear idea when a film can have an ‘all India release’.
  • No clarity on when overseas theatrical market will be fully functional.
  • Even when cinema halls re-open, there will be low occupancy due to social distancing norms.
  • Backlog of releases will lead to small and medium budget films losing out on shows.

The guild stresses that in these unprecedented times, producers have no option but to explore avenues available to recover their investment and to stay in business.

Soon after Inox, PVR too released a statement on the decision by some producers to release their films digitally. They said that they are “disappointed” with some producers deciding to go straight to streaming platforms. Read their statement below:

“As PVR we believe that the theatrical release is the best way for audiences to experience the labor and creative genius of our filmmakers. This has been so for decades and not just in India but globally. The ongoing COVID-19 crisis has caused an unfortunate shutdown of cinemas. We are confident, once we get to the other side of this crisis, there would be enough and more pent up demand from cine-goers who have been cooped up at homes for the last many weeks. We are likely to see demand by force on a sustained basis, once we reopen. Needless to say, we are disappointed with some of our Producers deciding to go straight to the streaming platform/s. We were hoping that the Producers would accede to our request to hold back their film’s release till cinemas reopen. That said, this is not the first time films are being premiered on a streaming platform/s. Cinema exhibition has regularly faced competition from new emerging distribution platforms over the last many years, and it has continued to enjoy cine-goers patronage and affinity. I would also like to use this opportunity to express our appreciation for all the producers who have publicly voiced their support for the theatrical platform and have decided to reschedule their releases to accommodate the reopening of cinemas”, - Mr. Kamal Gianchandani, CEO, PVR Pictures.

With the announcement of 6 other new films including Vidya Balan-starrer Shakuntala Devi going directly to OTT platforms, it does look like producers are right now only thinking of staying afloat by cutting their losses even if it is at the cost of the revenue they would have earned from a worldwide theatrical release.

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