At 12.30pm on Wed. 21 Jul. ’21, Disney+Hotstar announced on its Twitter handle that the much anticipated Nayanthara starrer “Netrikann” will release soon on the OTT platform. Meanwhile, several other films across languages such as the Telugu film Narappa feat. Venkatesh, AR Rahman’s Hindi musical “Mimi”, the much anticipated “Tughlaq Darbar” feat. Vijay Sethupathi and other top hits across languages have chosen the OTT route to cash in on the popularity of the medium and also not to miss out on raking whatever collections they can instead of waiting incessantly for theatres and multiplexes to reopen.
Especially after the second wave of the pandemic in the summer of 2021, the movie Exhibition business – what viewers see at Theatres have been deeply impacted with no clarity on when theatres will reopen and what would be the SOPs as and when they do. The Cinema Industry is estimated at Rs. 26,000 Cr pa, during the pre-Covid era. This includes production, casting, exhibition and allied services such as retail and F&B at theatres and plazas. India produces around 2,000 feature film a year of which the Hindi language dominates with a 50% share. Telugu and Tamil language films contribute 30% – that its every weekend, 8-10 films in each of the two languages are released. Interestingly, the most number of multiplexes screens are also located in South India, led by PVR Cinemas, INOX, among many smaller players. Both the Multiplexes are listed companies and as per their previous data, over 30% of their income is derived from non-cinema revenue such as parking fees, food counters, beverages and snacks and full-fledged restaurants and cafes within their premises.
Earlier this month, the makers of the much awaited Superstar Rajinikanth starrer Annathe – Sun Pictures announced that the film would release at Theatres for Deepavali – 4 Nov. ’21. A fortnight later, the producers of Valimai feat. Actor Ajith Kumar also announced that the film would release on Deepavali across theatres, much to the delight of fans and industry. It may be noted that Actor Vijay’s Master was the first Tamil film to have a theatrical release after the first lockdown which lasted for over 2 quarters for the Film Industry while Surya’s “Soorarai Potru” and Dhanush’s “Jagame Thanthidram” had OTT releases on Amazon Prime and Netflix, respectively. When Surya announced his film, a loosely based biopic on Air Deccan Founder Capt. Gopinath would release on the OTT platform, the Exhibitors Association protested and vowed not to support any of the upcoming films from his family, including his Actress wife Jothika and brother Karthi. Incidentally, Jothika’s “Ponmagal Vandaal” released last year on Amazon Prime while Karthi’s Sultan released one Disney+Hotstar in Jun. ’21.
Retail and F&B opportunities have been severely impacted due to the closure of theatres, both within the plexus as well as outside. For Ex., it was a common thing for the movie audience to spend as much or more of the movie ticket price one consumption of pop-corn, colas & juices during the movie and before and after the movie, a meal outing in the Mall or High Streets where the theatres were located. Though the pricing was said to be exorbitant inside the theatres, Consumers continued to purchase them while the Multiplex operators created the entire cinema watching outing as an experience for the youngsters and families alike. During mega releases, Multiplexes, especially sold a consolidated price for bulk bookings during the opening weekend which included F&B along with the tickets. With no certainty on when the theatres will reopen and if they reopen, a larger uncertainty on whether footfalls will drop in, the exhibition industry is staring at a very bleak picture. The only solace being, “Picture Abhi baaki hai, Dost…”.