Radhe, an Indian film starring Bollywood actor Salman Khan was a “big experiment” says Kamal Gianchandani, chief executive officer at PVR Pictures, the film production and distribution arm of the PVR Group. Gianchandani in the fourth-quarter earnings call on June 2, 2021, said that Radhe was the “first big film to go the pay-per-view route” in the country. However, the PVR Pictures CEO said that the pay-per-view (PPV) model is “not a popular platform” in India and that Radhe “experiment has not worked.” In the second week of May, Radhe, the “much-awaited” movie was released on Zee5, the over-the-top (OTT) streaming platform run by Zee Entertainment Enterprises (ZEE) and Zeeplex, Zee’s PPV service. In the week ahead of the Radhe release, Zee5 unveiled a “Radhe Combo” package that offered users one year Zee5 subscription along with “Radhe Zeeplex ticket” for Rs 499.
PPV Model “Widely Accepted” in US, Europe
Gianchandani said the Indian market has been “fairly insulated” as compared to the western markets despite select films releasing directly on streaming platforms.
“Unlike the US and European market, where pay-per-view is widely accepted and there are experiments in the past which have worked quite decently,” Gianchandani said in the fourth-quarter earnings call. “India, unfortunately, is not in that category. I would only end this point by saying that it is unlikely that any other big film would adopt this experiment or this route going forward.”
The PVR Pictures CEO said that the country is not a “homogenous market” like the US as the multiplex owners “depend on Hollywood films” along with the “Hindi film industry” and regional film industries.
Meanwhile, Ajay Bijli, PVR chairman, said in the fourth-quarter earnings call that the majority of a movie monetization “still happens from the theatrical exhibition.” Bijli said that multiple upcoming “big movies” like Sooryavanshi and 83 are “ready to wait” for a theatrical release.
“If people want to sort of experiment, it is fine,” Bijli said in the fourth-quarter earnings call.
Similar sentiments were also shared by Kapil Agarwal, joint managing director at UFO Moviez India in its fourth-quarter earnings call in late May. Agarwal said that there has been a “huge pent-up demand” to release movies through a theatrical release.
“Reliance has very openly declared that they will not go to OTT and will only release it in the theatres,” Agarwal said in the fourth-quarter earnings call. “In four months, when the restrictions on Cinemas were lifted, around 900 movies were released, and going forward there's a huge lineup of 300 plus movies which had already declared their release dates or intention to release.”
Agarwal said that UFO Moviez, a company with over 3600 screens across 1200 cities in India expects “gradual revival in the theatrical business.”
“When TV was launched, people said that the cinema industry will shut down, [when] OTT came people said the same, DVD player too but the cinema industry is growing worldwide,” Agarwal said. “And all predictions of [the] death of [the] cinema business due to OTT and other platforms have been proven wrong.”
Analysts Say OTT Platforms to Offer Increased Competition to Multiplex
Meanwhile, Motilal Oswal Financial Services, an Indian diversified financial services firm on Thursday said in a report that the OTT platforms could offer “increased competition” to multiplexes like PVR.
“The rising trend of movie releases over OTT platforms since the onset of COVID-19 and the strong growth in subscriber base raises concerns of increased competition from OTT platforms in the medium to long term,” Motilal Oswal Financial Services said in a report.
In late February, the firm said that the OTT platforms in India are recording an increase in viewership-driven by an increase in data penetration.
However, Prabhudas Lilladher, a research-based financial services company, on Thursday said that the closure of single screens across India would reduce competition for PVR.
Gianchandani said that the country has about 9000 screens with around 3000 said to be multiplex screens while the rest are single screens.
“Roughly 10% single screens may not reopen,” Gianchandani said. “But, we will have to wait and see once cinemas are permitted to reopen and once all states start opening cinemas, only then there will be validation of this number but, at this point, the way we stand looks like 10% of single screens may not reopen.”
ICICI Securities, a subsidiary of ICICI Bank, on Thursday, said that the movie pipeline for the multiplexes like PVR “remains healthy.”
“Globally, the performance of multiplexes post normalisation of the covid-related situation has been encouraging, and we expect the same to happen in India in course of time,” ICICI Securities said in a report.