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Last Updated : Oct 18, 2020 01:28 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

What exhibitors can do to lift theatre business in COVID times

Film trade experts say that there are certain measures that theatre-owners need to take in the current times to help exhibition business pick up pace.

(Image: Twitter)
(Image: Twitter)
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Theatres in India have reopened but it has been a slow start with few takers for old content. Box office business is dull and exhibitors are still under pressure.

In this scenario, film trade experts suggest certain measures that theatre-owners need to take to help exhibition business pick up the pace.

For example, film trade expert Komal Nahta noted that the big Hollywood venture Tenet is not just waiting for the Mumbai and Tamil Nadu market to reopen, but the makers of the film are also looking for higher revenue share.

In fact, Warner Bros, the production house behind Christopher Nolan's Tenet, has taken 65 percent share in the box office collections from the international markets instead of the usual 50 percent share. And the same is expected from the Indian market.

Nahta pointed out that there has been no clear communication from the Indian exhibitors and this is why Tenet despite being ready to release in theatres in Hindi, English, as well as other dubbed South Indian versions, the Hollywood studio has not announced a release date for the film.

Nonetheless, posters of Tenet in Tamil and Telugu have been released.

Experts believe producers who have waited for cinemas to reopen instead of taking the OTT route will ask for higher revenue share as occupancies in theatres will remain low in the current times.

In addition, when a film is bought by a video streaming platform for a direct-to-digital release, the entire money goes to the producer. This is not the case when it comes to a theatrical release as producers have to share their revenues with exhibitors.

Box-office revenue is split 50:50 between producers and exhibitors in the first week. The producer’s share drops to 47 percent in the second week, and 45 percent in the third week.

According to film trade analysts, exhibitors will have to rethink their revenue-sharing terms as the threat of films going directly to OTT remains.

When theatres are going through a dry spell in terms of new content, OTTs are scheduling new and big releases like Akshay Kumar's Laxmmi Bomb and Varun Dhawan and Sara Ali Khan-starrer Coolie No 1 for the festive season.

Already on OTT but new in theatres

Another aspect theatres can currently look at is releasing films that have already taken the OTT route.

As many as 21 films have either released or will be releasing soon on video streaming platforms. In this scenario, Nahta believes theatres need to relook their release window policy which does not release a film which has premiered on an OTT first.

In fact, film trade analyst Taran Adarsh had tweeted that there were talks that films like Dil Bechara, Sadak 2, Shakuntala Devi, Khuda Haafiz, Gunjan Saxena and Gulabo Sitabo may release in theatres. However, he noted that leading cinema chains like PVR, INOX, Carnival, Cinepolis have decided not to screen these films.

Nahta said these films may not result in a strong increase in footfalls in theatres but thanks to these movies, the audience will have more choice. This choice of more content will help attract audiences and this, in turn, will help big and new films which are waiting to be released in theatres.

But exhibitors say if they allow films that have premiered on OTT to release in theatres, it will become a norm.

New release strategies

Nahta suggests a solution; setting a cutoff date for OTT films releasing in theatres. For example, films that have committed for an OTT release before say October 10 can be released in theatres. All films that go to OTT after the October 10 cutoff date will not be released in theatres.

While these changes may be drastic but in the current situation, exhibitors have few choices.

In the last seven months, exhibitors earned zero revenue as theatres had shut shop due to coronavirus-led lockdown. It is only new content that can revive the cinema business. This is why theatre owners will have to rework many of their strategies.
First Published on Oct 18, 2020 01:28 pm