SVF Entertainment, one of the leading media and entertainment companies in eastern India, is skipping theatrical release for its new venture.
It has been a long wait for filmmakers and producers, yet theatres show no signs of reopening in India. Now, like Hindi films other markets are also taking the direct OTT route.
Joining the trend of direct-to-digital releases is the Bengali film industry. SVF Entertainment, which is considered as one of the leading media and entertainment companies in eastern India, is skipping theatrical release for its new venture Detective. The film will directly release on August 14 on Hoichoi, a Bengali OTT service.
In a chat with Moneycontrol, Vishnu Mohta, Co-Founder of Hoichoi, said, “It (digital premiere) will have a big impetus on how people will view OTT. There will be new people coming and the existing customers will get fresh content. While I totally support a theatrical release, currently this is a good option. Smaller films have a great outlet today thanks to OTT. Even the customers are benefiting because they cannot visit theatres now, so how else they can consume theatre content.”
Hoichoi during the lockdown period saw traffic surging by two to three times on a daily basis. He had earlier said that paid subscription on the platform saw a 5x growth.
But how is it beneficial for SVF as Hoichoi is a subsidiary of SVF?
Mahendra Soni, Co-Founder and Director of SVF explains: “Hoichoi is a 100 percent subsidiary of SVF but the two companies work independently. So, for our library titles, there is a deal in place. There is a price that Hoichoi pays to SVF.”
But as a producer, is he satisfied with a digital premiere?
“It is a de-risk business for me. In the case of a theatrical release, there is a chance of upside. I might make four-times the money invested and I might lose 50 percent of my investment. But here (OTT), the risk is less and we may be able to get 40-50 percent upside whenever we are able to generate revenue from other platforms/streams such as TV, music and even theatre. So, I see this as a better proposition from SVF's perspective. We are looking at this as a new opportunity and we cannot compare it to theatrical release,” said Soni.
He also suggests that films that are releasing on OTT first can release in theatres whenever they open. There will be a dearth of content when theatres resume operations, he pointed out.
“Also, in our case, we are a gated community. So, there are is an audience who can catch the movie directly in theatres,” Soni added.
Talking about the Bengali film market, Soni said that it would be the industry with the highest number of films waiting for release.
“There are more than 40 films that are shot and ready for release. However, the issue is national players like Disney+Hotstar, Amazon Prime Video and Netflix have not opened up for Bengali films. Hence, Bengali producers have no option but to wait for theatres to reopen.”
When it comes to SVF films, Soni said that they are open to do business with all platforms.
“We work closely with a lot of OTT platforms. We have done deals with Amazon Prime Video. So, I am open to any kind of business,” he said.
As for Hoichoi, the platform is also looking at films from other production houses.It seems those looking for Bengali content will have a lot to watch out for.