Parallel release of movies on over-the-top (OTT) platforms and multiplexes is a “concept” that is “prevalent only in the US and some other western markets,” says Kamal Gianchandani, chief executive officer at PVR Pictures. Gianchandani in the first quarter earnings call in late July, said that the “concept” of a “simultaneous release” is “not applicable to India.” The CEO at PVR Pictures was responding to an analyst question on the recent trend set by Walt Disney and Warner Bros in releasing movies simultaneously on streaming platforms and in multiplex. The Walt Disney Company, a diversified international family entertainment and media enterprise and Warner Bros Pictures Group, a leading media and entertainment company in recent months followed a “hybrid exhibition model.”
Simultaneous Movie Releases on Multiplex, OTT Platforms An “Experiment”
The model followed by the Walt Disney and Warner Bros saw the companies release several of its respective movies including Black Widow, a movie starring Scarlett Johansson on its respective OTT platforms and multiplex on the same day.
Gianchandani highlighted that the HBO Max, a streaming platform run by Warner Bros is “not even available in India.” Further, the PVR Pictures CEO said that Walt Disney has been “refraining from doing a day and date release in theaters and OTT platforms” in India, despite having its own OTT platform, the Disney+ Hotstar.
“It is an experiment,” Gianchandani said in the first quarter earnings call. “I think broadly most analysis are pointing out to cannibalizing of overall revenues to studios as in the sum of all parts would have been greater than what they are earning by doing a parallel release.”
Gianchandani said that the companies would have earned more revenue than “what they had earned” now, if “they had followed a window” between the multiplex and the OTT platforms. It has to be noted that Walt Disney's upcoming release Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will have a theatrical release first followed by a release on its streaming platform. Similarly, Warner Bros will no longer release its major movies on its streaming platform on the same day as multiplex in 2022. The Walt Disney and the Warner Bros in the upcoming months will both have a 45 day window between the theatrical release and the streaming platform release.
“So I think that also signals the fact that studios are not entirely happy with the results they have got over the last one year and what has happened over the last one year should be seen as an aberration, an experiment,” Gianchandani said.
Meanwhile, in India, several movies across multiple languages have been released directly on the OTT platforms in the past year, skipping theatrical release altogether. Gianchandani said the stakeholders including the talent associated with a movie that released directly on an OTT platform are “not happy.”
“When I say talent, I mean the actors, directors, the creative force behind a film,” Gianchandani said. “They are not happy with these releases because they are finding the experience is not the same.”
The PVR Pictures CEO said that the movies released in cinemas will have a “different experience” as the “people tend to enjoy more because of the overall experience” in theatres.
“So talent is not really happy, producers are also finding the commercial benefits are capped when you release it on OTT platform versus when you take it out theatrically,” Gianchandani said. “I think everyone is moving towards the same conclusion that we need to have windows, theatrical needs to be the first platform to be where the film gets exposed and thereafter you need to follow it up with the other platforms.”
Footfalls Set to Improve Soon Say Analysts
Crucially, multiple analysts including Edelweiss Research, a leading domestic institutional brokerage house “expect footfalls to improve” across the industry while also highlighting OTT platforms as “key risks.”
“With the second covid-19 wave impacting the sector, we expect footfalls to improve only once restrictions are removed and new movies are released,” Edelweiss Research said in a report in late July. “Progress on vaccination drive too bodes well.”
However, Motilal Oswal Financial Services, an Indian diversified financial services firm said that the increasing “scale and traction of movie releases” on OTT platforms could transform the industry dynamics.
“With the rising scale and traction of movie releases over OTT platforms since the pandemic, coupled with subscriber growth and even the strong reception by mainstream actors, the dynamics of the industry could change,” Motilal Oswal said in its report in early August. “However, the management has indicated that this may change once normalcy returns.”