Explains Movie Distributor Manohar Wadhwani
With more people stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic, streaming services like Netflix are seeing massive growth. But even then only a handful of releases that were intended for theaters may opt to depart a theatrical release entirely.
Earlier this week Netflix said it added 1.5 Crore new subscribers to its platform in the first quarter, bringing its total number of global customers to 19 Crore. Lacs of these viewers watched Netflix originals like Narcos, Money Heist, The Spy, Delhi Crime, and the hit documentary series “Tiger King,” leading many to question why production houses aren’t releasing films that were meant for cinemas on the small screen.
After all, movie theaters are expected to be closed until at least mid-June. But, it’s not that simple. Streams aren’t the same thing as movie tickets.
For as low as Rs.199 a month, Netflix customers can watch whatever they want on the platform. They don’t have to pay per view. So, if a producer releases a movie straight to a streaming service, whether it be Netflix, Hotstar Disney+ or Amazon it’s not going to make money on that specific title. It only makes money on the subscription fee.
That is why even a hollywood movie like “Trolls World Tour,” which skipped its theatrical release due to Covid-19 is being sold on demand. This helps a studio to get paid atleast by someone who purchases the movie or by someone who rents it for 24 hours. But this method still isn’t as profitable as opening a blockbuster at a movie theater.
With the closure of theaters across the country, producers are being forced to make tough decisions about which movies will be delayed and which will be sent to streaming and on-demand platforms.
However, as of now none of releases that were intended for theaters have opted to depart a theatrical release entirely. Rumors are that Akshay Kumar starrer Laxmmi Bomb may take the Disney Plus Hotstar release route instead of a theatrical release (though there is no official statement from its producers yet). This is the only big budget project who’s producers are thinking upon taking the OTT route.
Producers of another biggie Sooryawanshi which was to be releases in theaters on 24th March 2020 seem to be in no mood to release the film online and surpass its theatrical release. Likewise the majority of Bollywood films have pushedtheir theatrical releases to late 2020 or found a new date in 2021.
Also going by logic of simple economics, if a movie costs Rs.125 Crores to make, the rule of thumb is that it needs at least that much in domestic box office, plus all the other windows (international, DVD sales, VOD, premium channels, SVOD) to break even. So even in this scenario a thetrical release has always to be the preferred medium and therefore meaning: Patience Is Profit!
But it’s not about money always!
Another reason the production houses are sticking to theatrical releases instead of swapping over to on-demand streaming is less about money and prestige and more about the communal experience of watching a movie together in a big group. Kyoni film dekhne ka asli mazaa toh cinema ghar mein doston aur pariwaar waaloke saath hi aataa hai!!!
By Manohar Wadhwani
Twitter / Instagram @ manoharwadhwani