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COVID-19 impact: Dearth of content has led to a rift in the exhibition industry

Exhibitors of smaller theatre chains and single screen cinemas are now open to release direct to digital releases as dearth of new content is resulting in little to no business for these cinemas.

November 29, 2020 / 01:56 PM IST

The top theatre chains are showing no flexibility when it comes to release of films that are playing on video streaming platforms.

However, many smaller multiplex chains and single screen theatres are unable to sustain without new content which is why they are willing to release direct to digital releases.

This is why such chains struck a deal with Zee Studios for the release of Ishan Khattar and Ananya Pandey's Khaali Peeli. The film first released in October on Zee Plex, the pay per view platform from the house of Zee.

And now the film is available in many theatres, clearly showing a divide between the top theatre chains and the non-national cinemas including smaller multiplexes and single screen theatres.

The move by Zee Studios seems to be in the right direction especially after the unofficial release of Akshay Kumar's Laxmii. A few single screen theatres are running the pirated version of Laxmii.


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While the single screen theatres were looking for a simultaneous release in cinemas and over the top (OTT) platform Disney+Hotstar, the film officially did not release in theatres. And this was a big blow to many exhibitors.

When it comes to Khaali Peeli, film trade analyst Komal Nahta pointed out that, makers of the film were ready to release the venture in theatres.

However, national multiplexes had turned down the offer as Multiplex Association of India (MAI) has made its stance clear that direct to digital releases will not run in theatres.

This is why MAI's members which includes non-national multiplexes did not release films like Gulabo Sitabo, Dil Bechara, Shakunatala Devi, Sadak 2, Khuda Haafiz, Lootcase, among others.

But exhibitors of smaller theatre chains and single screen cinemas are now open to release direct to digital releases as dearth of new content is resulting in little to no business for these cinemas.

So far, new films that have released in cinemas include Hollywood venture Trolls World Tour (Hindi and English version) and new Bollywood films that released after lockdown including Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari as well as Sir.

Nahta said that non-national multiplex chains and single screen exhibitors are negotiating with producers for the release of films that are streaming on OTT platforms.

However, the national multiplexes continue to stick to their decision of not releasing OTT premiered films. This is despite low business from both old and new content.

This signs of the rift between the exhibition industry in times of COVID-19 which continues to struggle despite resumption in business. Shortage of content continues to make lives difficult for Indian exhibitors.
Maryam Farooqui
first published: Nov 29, 2020 01:56 pm
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