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Exhibitors seek PM Narendra Modi’s help to stop OTT release of films meant for theatres

Amid the long wait for single screens and multiplexes to reopen, some members of the Eastern India Motion Pictures of India have urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take steps to stop producers from releasing films, primarily meant for theatres, on OTT platforms.

In a letter to the prime minister, the exhibitors’ section of the association said producers, who having signed contracts with single screens and multiplexes, should not be allowed to release their films on over-the-top (OTT) sites, as it would add to the financial woes of cinema hall owners.

Single screens and multiplexes had since mid-March stopped screening in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to sources in the Bengali film industry, a number of producers have lined up their ventures for release on OTT platforms.

“Few producers for their personal benefit are releasing movies on foreign OTT platforms… This will be a threat to entire film industry,” the letter said.

More than 9,000 single screens and multiplexes might go out of business, and employees could lose jobs, if the trend continues, the association said in its letter.

“Movies are first released in theatres… goes to the OTT platforms after 60 days. But in this difficult time when all the theatre owners are supporting you and keeping their halls closed, why and how, without maintaining the status quo, few (production) houses can go ahead (with release)?” the exhibitors said in their letter to the PM.

Moreover, the government will lose on revenue earned from cinema halls, the letter said.

Ratan Saha, the chairman of the EIMPA exhibitors’ section, said, “Releasing a film on OTT by skipping the conventional distribution route will mean that no one is going to watching it again, if screened in cinema halls.

“In West Bengal alone, the trend can deal a body blow to at least 225 single-screen theatres. Several employees in multiplexes will be rendered jobless. We will follow up on our request through our contacts in Delhi in the next few days.”

Earlier, the Multiplex Association of India, in a statement, had made a similar request to film producers, artists and content creators.

“We urge all studios, producers, artists and other content creators to kindly respect the exclusive theatrical window, which has been a time-tested industry practice, agreed to by all stakeholders, not just in India but even globally for several decades,” it said.

EIMPA, in response, had pledged its support to the multiplex association.

“This is the time to support each other so that we all can emerge stronger, whenever we make a comeback, Saha said.

A film director, who did not wish to be named, said it was necessary to strike a balance so that everybody is benefited.

“We share their (exhibitors’) concerns. Under present circumstances, it is not possible to ask a producer to indefinitely hold back a film, which had been completed before the pandemic. At the same time, we don’t want to spoil the joy of watching movies in theatres. We have to strike a balance,” he said.

—Daily Hunt

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