After film producers started talks with leading video streaming services to directly release their films on the OTT platforms, a war of words has broken out between the producers and the multiplexes who are miffed at producers skipping the ‘theatrical window’.
Theatrical window is the period between a film’s release in movie theaters and its release on other platforms.
The Producers Guild of India on Friday issued a statement, responding to film exhibitor Inox Leisure’s earlier statement in which the multiplex player has strongly criticised producers for skipping theatrical release during the lockdown, calling such producers as ‘fair-weather friends’.
The guild said it is disappointing to see “abrasive and unconstructive” messaging from some of the colleagues in the exhibition sector, hinting at Inox.
It also highlighted that at this difficult time, all stakeholders — producers, distributors, exhibitors, daily wage earners and technicians and others — have to support each other.
“Statements that call for ‘retributive measures’ against producers who decide to take their movies direct to OTT platforms -especially at a time when cinemas are unfortunately closed for the foreseeable future – do not lend themselves to a constructive or collaborative dialogue on the way forward for the industry,” PGI’s statement said.
ET had first reported on May 5 that tension is brewing between the producers and the multiplexes after producers started exploring ways to cut down their losses by releasing the films directly on the OTT platforms.
On Thursday, when it was announced that Amitabh Bachchan – Ayushmann Khurrana starrer ‘Gulabo Sitabo’ will be aired directly on Prime Video, Inox, India’s second largest multiplex chain, said that the company will be constrained to examine its options, and reserves all rights, including taking retributive measures, in dealing with such ‘fair-weather friends’.
“Inox has been investing profoundly towards adding world class quality screens, across the country, only to provide more eyeballs to the great content being produced. This partnership has endured for decades, and has provided succour to each other. In these troubled times, it is disturbing to see one of the partners not interested in continuing the mutually beneficial relationship, especially when the need of the hour is to stand shoulder to shoulder with each other, and bring the film industry back to its vibrant best,” it said.
Criticising Inox, the Guild highlighted that when it comes to financial losses, the situation of the producers is no different from exhibitors.
“Elaborate and expensive sets erected for under-production films have had to be taken down due to no date in sight for shoots to resume, with the sunk cost of the set and studio rentals to be borne completely by producers – as insurers refuse to cover the cost. Shoot schedules have had to be abruptly cancelled due to the lockdown, with huge cancellation charges being borne completely by the producer,” said the guild.
The issue at hand is that cinema screens may be one of the last sectors of the service likely to be given permission to re-open.
Also, if all the producers wait, there will be a huge backlog of films, which will lead to sub-optimal showcasing of small and mid-budget films.
The guild said that the producers will seek out all avenues available to recover their investment and to stay in business, while adding that a theatrical release will always be the preference for movies that were conceptualised as cinematic experiences.
“These are unprecedented times and it is imperative to see things in that context,” the guild said. “For producers to continue to keep producing’ the movies that light up our cinema screens, they need to continue to be in business in the first place.”
Meanwhile, PVR also issued a statement, maintaining that the theatrical release is the “best way” for audiences to experience the labour and creative genius of the filmmakers.
“The on-going 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,” said Kamal Gianchandani, CEO, PVR Pictures.
He added that PVR is disappointed with some producers’ decision to go straight to the streaming platforms. “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,” Gianchandani said.