To OTT or not to OTT: Aamir Khan says wait six months, but other stakeholders disagree


The common experience of watching movies in theaters now faces an existential threat on a scale never seen before. The reason for this panic is the advent of streaming platforms. Or at least that seems to be the popular consensus right now. Stakeholders from states like Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have started mobilizing against the practice of showing the films on digital platforms just weeks after their initial theatrical release, arguing that it discourages people to go to the cinema.

“OTT is not a challenge for cinema, but we are actually making it a challenge. What we’re saying is our movies hitting theaters, but you don’t really have to come. Because in a few weeks you will be able to see it at home. How do you want people to come to the cinema? Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan asked while promoting his latest film Laal Singh Chaddha during an interview with Galatta Plus. He also stressed the importance of giving the public a clear choice. “Either come to the cinema and watch the movie now, or wait six months to see it on OTT.”

K Vijayakumar, chairman of the Film Exhibitors United Organization of Kerala (FEUOK), shares Aamir’s sentiment. “At present, 42 days is the time span that Kerala film chambers have accepted before releasing a film on OTT. But many are releasing their films on OTT platforms well before the appointed time. And the cinematographic chambers are incapable of responding to this situation. We have therefore decided that if a film is released on OTT before the agreed time, FEUOK will take action against the stars and directors of this film,” he said.

FEUOK has announced that films of stars and directors who violate these conditions will not be screened in Kerala cinemas in the future. The association has also asked cinema chambers to increase the OTT release window from 42 days to 56 days.

“We want to bring the public back to theaters. And only when we can make sure new movies don’t hit streaming platforms for 56 days will people make an effort to come to theaters,” Vijayakumar said.

Naga Chaitanya and Aamir Khan in Laal Singh Chaddha. (Photo: IMDB)

Aamir has revealed that he will not be making Laal Singh Chaddha available for streaming for six months after its theatrical release. With the production houses that back films like Laal Singh Chaddha set up for such a challenge, could smaller production banners afford to turn their backs on the extra revenue from digital rights sales for so many months?

“The economics of cinema should also change in all aspects. The producers I worked with were used to the good fortune of OTT players. It was a very comforting fund, which helped them during the production phase. If the producer is very clear that they don’t want the movie to come to OTT in a short period of time, then they should have the ability to say, “I’m not going to be tempted by these big bucks money and I’m going to use the money from another source and keep this movie off the OTT for six months.” And for that, all the technicians and actors have to start working hand in hand. “We should also start taking the profit shares. Start taking the paycheck a bit later to support this cause. We need to start recalibrating the way we handle finances. We all need to come together or this won’t change.” , said Naga Chaitanya, who played a key role in Laal Singh Chaddha, at indianexpress.com.

Naga Chaitanya is also among those who have been caught off guard by the seismic change taking place in the film industry. His previous film Thank You crashed at the box office during its opening weekend. But, he thinks that would not have been the case in the pre-pandemic market.

“A few years ago I would have had a good opening and a decent run at the weekend, and maybe during the week it will start to fade. Now it’s not like that If the conversation isn’t good, Friday afternoon you see a drop in the collection. It’s also because the audience is exposed to so many varieties of content through OTT,” Chaitanya explained.

Affordable internet services and user-friendly OTT subscriptions have changed the behavior of movie-going audiences for good. They now have plenty of options unlike before with streaming services offering a treasure trove of hundreds of hours of high quality entertainment at their disposal. And in this situation, they are now making a rather informed choice when it comes to choosing a movie at the cinema.

And it’s not as if patrons have overwhelmingly decided to abandon cinemas in favor of streaming. Recent blockbusters like Vikram, RRR and KGF: Chapter 2, have shown that people still love the shared experience of watching movies in theaters with strangers as long as they’re convinced a movie is worth their time. of their money and effort.

A photo from the RRR pre-release event in Kerala. (Photo: Twitter/RRRMovie)

“Bimbsara and Sita Ramam brought good income in Telugu states. When movies are good, people will watch them. They have enough options now. If there’s no OTT, they can spend time watching Instagram reels and YouTube videos. It’s not for nothing that we have so many YouTube stars now,” said SR Prabhu of Dream Warrior Pictures.

Unlike many, Prabhu is neither shocked nor shaken by the changing face of cinema. His business and creative decisions seem to be guided by maxims – “adapt or die”. Instead of fighting change and making OTT platforms a villain, Prabhu wants to innovate to maximize profits on all fronts.

“For example, Amazon (Prime Video) allowed people to rent and watch KGF 2 four weeks after its theatrical release and two weeks later they made it available for all subscribers. We have to adapt to the changes Prabhu added.

Prabhu is happy with a four-week gap between theatrical and OTT releases considering that the total annual production has doubled over the years. “Previously, there were 50 to 60 films a year. Now we see around 150 releases,” Prabhu remarked.

And he believes any further increase in the OTT release window will only increase the threat of online piracy. “A film needs at least a minimum of four weeks in theaters to recoup its cost. 6 months apart is too long,” said producer G. Dhananjayan.

Mumbai-based film operator Akshaye Rathi, however, is advocating for a comprehensive policy to protect the interests of all stakeholders, including streaming services. And he believes that tough action to contain the threat of piracy will solve the majority of the industry’s problems.

A still image of Raksha Bandhan.

“Although there are good laws against piracy, they are not well implemented. To engage in piracy as a consumer or seller, you have to pay a hefty fine or possibly go to jail. In my decade-plus career, I can’t remember anyone going to jail for hacking. People haven’t given up on piracy. By allowing piracy, governments also lose money. If it’s not for piracy, and people are consuming movies legitimately, 12-18% GST on every ticket sold goes to the government,” Akshaye said.

“If a movie comes to OTT six months later, there’s a good chance people will get into piracy and won’t even go to the theater or watch it on OTT. You need to plug that piracy leak and you ensuring theaters and OTT platforms get their due,” he added.

Akshaye is also advocating for a longer OTT window to maximize gains for everyone in the business.

“Streaming platforms have already streamlined a lot in terms of the money they pay for movies. For most movies, they’ve started saying first go to the cinema and see how it goes in the box -office and on that basis we will pay you. It’s not like a few years ago when movies were selling left, right and center at obnoxious prices on streaming platforms,” ​​he said. -he explains.

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