Laxmii poster featuring Akshay Kumar and Kiara Advani (Source: Twitter @foxstarhindi)
It is not Disney+Hotstar alone that is running Akshay Kumar's Laxmii. Select theatres are also running the film. However, these theatres are not running it officially.
Many single screen theatres across the country have released the film and are running pirated versions of Laxmii in cinemas.
A multiplex chain owner on condition of anonymity said that theatres in tier V and VI markets are running Laxmii illegally. He said that these theatres are small cinemas which do not have good quality projectors and they do not follow any standard of film exhibition.
He also said that such theatres by running Laxmii illegally are supporting piracy, something which the exhibition industry has always opposed.
But many single screen owners are saying that they are finding it difficult to sustain after reopening without big Bollywood films.
In fact, single screen theatres had requested Akshay Kumar, who has produced the film, to release Laxmii simultaneously on over the top platform, Disney+Hotstar and in single screen cinema halls.
However, when that did not happen many screens resorted to copying the film on a pendrive and running Laxmii unofficially.
And now this is resulting in theatres which are running Laxmii, to pocket the entire collection of the film without sharing it with the distributors as the makers of Laxmii or Disney+Hotstar have not sold the theatrical rights of the film.
It looks like producers and studios will have to shift their focus from multiplexes to single screen as the latter is comfortable with a simultaneous release on online streaming platforms.
Plus, an official release will also put a stop to theatres running pirated versions of films.
In times of COVID-19, both producers and theatres will have to show flexibility as dearth of content will remain a challenge for some time.
After the first Bollywood release post the lockdown, Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari, theatres have no new Bollywood film to run.
Even for December, theatres are unsure about content as producers have not announced release dates if upcoming films.
Big films like Akshay Kumar's Sooryavanshi and Ranveer Singh-starrer 83 will be releasing next year.
Only Hollywood content like Tenet and Wonder Woman are big releases that theatres are awaiting.
However, Hollywood films are not attractive content for many single screen cinemas. This means the struggle for them will continue until a big Bollywood venture hits the big screen.