PVR Won’t Release Films Already Streamed On OTT Platforms
India’s largest multiplex operator said it won’t screen any movie that is not exclusively released in theatres first as it looks to protect turf after the makers of at least two Bollywood films sold rights to Amazon Prime Video during the Covid-19 lockdown.
“The mutliplex association has requested all producers to delay the releases, and we were hoping they will accede to our request,” Kamal Gyanchandani, chief executive officer at PVR Ltd., said in a conference call. “We won't be playing a film which is already released on a streaming platform.”
Multiplexes, along with hotels and airlines, are among the worst-hit businesses as stay-at-home orders to counter the Covid-19 pandemic froze operations. But consumption of online content spiked during the period. Amazon Prime Video acquired the rights for two Hindi films and five other movies for direct digital premiere.
PVR and smaller peer Inox Leisure Ltd. expressed disappointment even though the digital release by the two producers does not breach the exclusivity window since the filmmakers hadn’t sign a pact with theatres. If such an agreement is signed, a movie can be released on another platform eight weeks hitting the cinemas.
An overwhelming majority of producers has come out and publicly voiced support for theatrical distribution by deciding to reschedule the releases till cinemas reopen, the PVR management said. “In most cases, it is the independent producers who are finding it difficult to deal with uncertainty who have taken these steps (release on OTT platforms).”
Streaming services might be paying a premium of around 15-20 percent over the cost of production to the producers, according to the company. Most of these acquisitions are tactical in nature and are done to penetrate into the market, it said.
The government extended the lockdown till May 31 while easing conditions. Multiplexes, however, will remain shut. The industry expects staggered reopening but the PVR management said the government is yet to confirm this.
The multiplex operator suggested to leave one seat empty after every group to follow the physical distancing norms. That, according to the company’s management, would reduce occupancy by 25 percent.
The break-even occupancy, according to PVR, will be 20 percent to cover the fixed cost. But this is also an evolving number as the company is in discussion with landlords to lower the rentals, it said.
Multiplexes are betting on pent-up demand once they are allowed to resume operations. A lot of content is bunched up, according to PVR, citing the possibility of ticket prices rising for big releases.