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Varun Dhawan-starrer Coolie No.1 will premiere on Amazon Prime Video.
Varun Dhawan-starrer Coolie No.1 will premiere on Amazon Prime Video.

Amazon Prime Video announces latest slate of direct-to-digital films

  • Some of these films may have been acquired for 20- 90 crore, according to trade analysts estimates, though Vijay Subramaniam, director and head, content, Amazon Prime Video India, declined to share the investments made

NEW DELHI: US streaming service, Amazon Prime Video, will premier nine Indian films across languages on its platform even as movie theatres take baby steps to restart operations in some markets after seven months of shutdown. The Jeff Bezos-owned platform said it was acquiring bigger films, that are skipping theatrical release, on the back of a positive response from its subscribers for its earlier direct-to-digital offerings.

The new titles include Varun Dhawan’s comedy drama Coolie No.1 co-starring Sara Ali Khan, director Hansal Mehta’s black comedy Chhalaang featuring Rajkummar Rao, Bhumi Pednekar-starrer Durgavati, Tamil film Maara starring R. Madhavan, Telugu movie Middle Class Melodies and Kannada movies Bheema Sena Nalamaharaja and Maane Number 13. The list adds to the earlier announced Tamil superstar Suriya’s Soorarai Pottru and Malayalam comedy drama Halal Love Story.

Some of these films may have been acquired for 20- 90 crore, according to trade analysts estimates, though Vijay Subramaniam, director and head, content, Amazon Prime Video India, declined to share the investments made. “We’re definitely eyeing bigger projects now. We’ve always been focused on mainstream titles with wide reach and filmmakers can see that their content reaches masses across geographies with the kind of promotion and marketing we enable," he said.

Gaurav Gandhi, director and country general manager, Amazon Prime Video India, said the first batch of movies had been watched by viewers in 180 countries across 4,000 towns and cities with 50% of the audience for south Indian language films coming from outside their native states. These included comedy drama Gulabo Sitabo, starring Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushmann Khurrana, and Vidya Balan-starrer Shakuntala Devi: Human Computer.

"We’ve seen a steady and healthy growth in subscriptions and engagement on the service. All of these films became the most watched titles in their respective languages on the platform and unlike theatres where films are taken off after being watched only by a fraction of audiences, we not only have opening weekends but a stretched period of viewing long after," Gandhi said.

Despite being a mobile-skewed market, Amazon said it has seen Indians consume entertainment on large screens and living room devices during the pandemic, reflecting the rise of family viewing at home. It’s not clear how customers will respond once theatres re-open but it’s fairly certain both avenues, cinemas and streaming content, will co-exist, Subramaniam said.

“Thus far, we have been focused on long form storytelling (web series) but we will continue to examine opportunities with films even after theatres reopen," he added.

To be sure, a new slate of acquired films for digital does not spell good news for theatres that will anyway be starved of content when they reopen later this month or early November, depending upon decisions by various states.

“Each film going to streaming takes away at least one week’s business from theatres," said a trade analyst who did not wish to be named. As big tentpoles like Sooryavanshi, ’83 and Radhe wait to first gauge audiences’ reaction, several medium-budget and small films that were ready and could have hit screens in the meantime, have opted out of the race. That leaves cinemas with few options besides older hits that are unlikely to draw audiences in large numbers.

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