After PVR, INOX criticises direct-to-OTT film releases; Producers’ Guild responds by calling it 'abrasive and unconstructive messaging’

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On Thursday, it was confirmed that Ayushmann Khurrana and Amitabh Bachchan starrer Gulabo Sitabo will get a digital release. Now, amid the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown as multiplexes remain shut, Amazon Prime Video has announced six more Indian films, including Shakuntala Devi starring Vidya Balan, for digital premieres over the next months. In fact, five other major films in Tamil, Telugu and Kannada languages have also been lined up straight for release on Amazon Prime as of now.

Considering the producers are now moving towards direct-to-web release, cinema chain INOX on Friday expressed dissatisfaction at the news that films will be skipping a theatrical release entirely. “INOX would like to express extreme displeasure and disappointment on an announcement made by a production house today, to release their movie directly on an OTT platform by skipping the theatrical window run. The decision of the production house to deviate from the globally prevalent content windowing practice is alarming and disconcerting,” their official statement read.

RECOMMENDED READ: After 51 years in the film industry, Amitabh Bachchan is 'honoured to be a part of yet another challenge' as 'Gulabo Sitabo' all set for a digital release

Now, in their response to chains like INOX and PVR, Producers Guild of India has hit back at sections of the exhibition sector who seem to be upset with an OTT platform's move to release films. In a statement issued on Friday, the guild wrote that we are in unprecedented times, facing one of the "greatest public health and economic emergencies of our lifetimes". "Hence at a time like this, it is disappointing to see abrasive and unconstructive messaging from some of our colleagues in the exhibition sector. Statements that call for 'retributive measures' against producers who decide to take their movies direct to OTT platforms - especially at a time when cinemas are unfortunately closed for the foreseeable future - do not lend themselves to a constructive or collaborative dialogue on the way forward for the industry," the statement read.

The Guild's statement suggested the production sector (just like the exhibition sector) is suffering "hundreds of crores of losses on a daily basis - - Elaborate and expensive sets erected for under-production films have had to be taken down due to no date in sight for shoots to resume, with the sunk cost of the set and studio rentals to be borne completely by producers - as insurers refuse to cover the cost". It further added that "even when cinemas reopen across India, there is "no guarantee that the overseas theatrical market (which is a key component of the economics of Hindi films) will have resumed. Even if it has in some countries, it might not have in others, hence leading to additional loss of revenue for a producer. When cinemas reopen, we should be prepared for lower occupancies. One, because of the social distancing norms that will be both mandated and necessary for public safety. Secondly, because of the inevitable concern that cinema public spaces - goers will have about venturing back into." The guild also pointed out that there will be a huge backlog of releases, and the smaller and medium scale films especially will suffer from suboptimal showcasing in addition to above.

Lastly, the Producers Guild also emphasised that they are unequivocally and passionately supportive of the theatrical release of films, and a theatrical release will always be the preference for films that were conceptualised as cinematic experiences.

(Source: Twitter/with inputs from IANS)
 

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