After INOX, PVR expresses 'disappointment' over films' digital release; Producers Guild of India defends decision

In an apparent reference to the decision of the makers of Gulabo Sitabo to release the film on a streaming platform, INOX had expressed 'extreme displeasure' over the move. PVR also followed suit.

FP Staff May 15, 2020 14:19:25 IST
After INOX, PVR expresses 'disappointment' over films' digital release; Producers Guild of India defends decision

Expressing their displeasure over the statements issued by few multiplex chains against the digital release of films, Producers Guild of India (PGI) on Friday said, it is time for the entire industry to come together and support each other, amid the nationwide lockdown, which has resulted in shutting of theatres.

Also read on Firstpost: After Gulabo Sitabo, Amazon Prime Video announces Vidya Balan's Shakuntala Devi biopic will premiere directly on streaming platform

In an apparent reference to the decision of the makers of Gulabo Sitabo to release the film on a streaming platform, multiplex INOX on Thursday had expressed its "extreme displeasure and disappointment" over the move.

Kamal Gianchandani of PVR Pictures also said they were expecting the producers to hold their films for theatrical release.

"As PVR, we believe that the theatrical release is the best way for audiences to experience the labour and creative genius of our filmmakers. This has been so for decades and not just in India but globally," Gianchandani told Press Trust of India. 

Gianchandani said the ongoing COVID-19 crisis has caused an unfortunate shutdown of cinemas but they are confident when the situation returns to normalcy, people will definitely go to theatres to watch movies.

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"We are confident, once we get to the other side of this crisis, there will be enough and more pent up demand from cine-goers who have been cooped up at homes for the last many weeks. We are likely to see demand by force on a sustained basis, once we reopen."

He said the exhibitors have asked producers to "hold back their film's release till cinemas reopened."

"Needless to say, we are disappointed with some of our producers deciding to go straight to streaming platform/s, he said.

Gianchandani noted that cinema halls have faced competition from OTT platforms in the past as well.

"That said, this is not the first time films are being premiered on streaming platform/s. Cinema exhibition has regularly faced competition from new emerging distribution platforms over the last many years, and it has continued to enjoy cine-goers patronage and affinity.

"I would also like to use this opportunity to express our appreciation for all the producers who have publicly voiced their support for the theatrical platform and have decided to reschedule their releases to accommodate the reopening of cinemas, he added.

On the other hand, the Guild said it is disappointing to see abrasive and unconstructive messaging from some of their colleagues in the exhibition sector.

This is a time for the entire film industry to come together with empathy and support for the difficult predicament that each of our constituents finds themselves in - from producers, distributors, exhibitors, daily wage earners and technicians, to the thousands of people whose lives and livelihoods are in some way dependent on our industry, PGI said in a statement.

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 Guild said when it comes to financial losses, the situation of the producers is no different from exhibitors.

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.

Shoot schedules have had to be abruptly cancelled due to the lockdown, with huge cancellation charges being borne completely by the producer - again with no support from insurers.

The Guild said cinemas may be one of the last sectors of the service likely to be given permission to re-open and even if theatres in India start functioning, there is no guarantee that the overseas theatrical market, which is a key component of the economics of Hindi films, will resume.

Producers of Hindi movies will have to wait for cinemas across the entire country to re-open, as the economics of the business require an all India release. For cinemas to be open across the entire country, it is clear we are sometime away.

"Even if it has in some countries, it might not have in others, hence leading to additional loss of revenue for a producer.

The Guild said by the time cinemas will start functioning, there will be a huge backlog of films, which will lead to sub-optimal showcasing of small and mid-budget films.

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-goers will have about venturing back into public spaces.

In addition to this, there will be a huge backlog of releases, and the smaller and medium scale films especially will suffer from sub-optimal showcasing in addition to all the concerns above.

The Guild said given these factors, it is only natural that producers will seek out all avenues available to recover their investment and to stay in business.

Also read on Firstpost — Jyothika's Ponmangal Vandhal, Keerthy Suresh's Penguin, among others, to directly premiere on Amazon Prime Video

However, it emphasised that it is unequivocally and passionately supportive of the theatrical release of films.

A theatrical release will always be the preference for movies that were conceptualised as cinematic experiences. But these are unprecedented times for all the reasons mentioned above, and it is imperative to see things in that context.

For producers to continue to keep producing' the movies that light up our cinema screens, they need to continue to be in business in the first place, the statement read.

The Guild said it would like to work collaboratively with the exhibition sector to bring the audiences back to theatres.

Read the entire statement here

The production fraternity would like to work collaboratively with the exhibition sector to ensure that once cinemas do re-open, we do all we can to bring audiences back in large numbers to experience our movies in the way they were always meant to be enjoyed - at the theatres.

(With inputs from Press Trust of India)

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