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Multiplexes resist southern studios’ plans for shorter OTT window

Multiplexes are resisting the move by film producers from South India to debut their movies on over-the-top (OTT) platforms within four weeks of theatrical release, instead of the stipulated eight-week window.

Multiples chains, including the likes of PVR Inox and Cinepolis, have declined to screen the Hindi version of Tamil star Vijay’s Leo slated for release at the Dussehra weekend following similar measures for Rajinikanth’s Jailer in August.

However, the impact may be more pronounced for Vijay’s Leo, since it is also set to debut on IMAX screens, mostly situated in north India, potentially depriving it of substantial box office revenue associated with this premium format.

PVR Inox declined to comment on the story, while Cinepolis did not respond to Mint’s queries.

“The ball is in the producer’s court. We’ve requested for an eight-week window for Hindi version, while accepting four weeks for the Tamil version. We’re working on taking this conversation forward. There’s no more information yet. Discussions happen on a film-to-film basis and producers usually take an informed decision based on an exhibitor’s expectations. If they’re uncomfortable with the release window, they don’t dub the film,” a senior multiplex chain executive said, seeking anonymity.

It will be unfortunate if Leo misses out on the benefits of an IMAX release, he added.

“There should be nothing surprising about it. OTT platforms are taking a toll on cinema business, and chains like PVR Inox are increasingly asking producers and distributors to commit that Hindi films will not be premiered online until eight weeks have lapsed since theatrical release. It’s a benchmark all non-national chains and single screens should follow as well, but many give in because of the paucity of content at times,” said a theatre owner working closely with pan-India chains.

Audiences will not be compelled to visit cinemas if the films stream on home screens in four weeks, he said. However, over 50% collections for an average movie in the Hindi-speaking belt are contributed by the top two chains.

“It’s not like multiplexes do not consider other cases. For small industries, like Punjabi, there is often an agreement to decide on OTT window based on how the film fares at the box office. If it isn’t doing that well, it premieres sooner,” he said.

Managing director of Miraj Entertainment, Amit Sharma, said relaxations were made for OTT premieres during covid but if standards are not followed, viewers will not show any urgency to visit theatres.

“Building the perception that films will be available at home after a certain period of time takes time. It’s a process and we’re speaking to producers across industries, to ensure all stakeholders make money,” Sharma said.

Independent trade analyst Sreedhar Pillai said the move doesn’t impact many southern producers and studios that are not seeking pan-India release, especially since digital streaming rights more than make up for what the insignificant collections in the north.

For instance, Jailer crossed the ₹650-crore mark globally and is one of the highest grossing movies of all time in home state Tamil Nadu. However, the big difference is that Leo is set to release in IMAX, a format licensed by large chains such as PVR, and are mostly located in the north. Not releasing the film across major IMAX properties may deprive the producers of ₹6-7 crore in revenue.

“All IMAX releases get pan-India release. We are holding discussion for Leo as part of the usual process for a movie, and we expect to finalise a plan by next week,” an IMAX spokesperson said. LiveMint

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