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With theatres shut and movie-goers unlikely to return in a hurry, some producers of mid-sized Bollywood movies are likely to turn to streaming platforms to recover their investments, instead of waiting for movie halls to reopen. India’s film production and exhibition business has ground to a complete halt following the covid-19 outbreak.

Comedy drama Angrezi Medium, which had a disappointing theatrical show after releasing just a week before the nationwide lockdown began, quickly found a spot on streaming platform Disney+ Hotstar. Although the film did not maintain the mandatory eight-week window between theatre and digital releases, no one is complaining.

“Not for the biggies, but a digital release seems quite doable for some of the mid and small-scale films," Shariq Patel, chief executive officer at Zee Studios said.

According to two trade experts who spoke on condition of anonymity, the industry will suffer a loss of 550 crore till April end as theatres remain closed and viewers stay away.

The US has already set the trend with abortion odyssey Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Disney’s animation flick Onward, and a few other films opting for digital streaming instead of the planned theatrical releases. The former, an indie, had a limited release in the week of 13 March before theatres shut down and it went to video rental services like iTunes in the US while the latter, scheduled for 6 March, went to Disney+.

Mid-sized films can recover costs via direct-to-digital releases.
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Mid-sized films can recover costs via direct-to-digital releases. (Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint)

“The good thing that’s happening is that OTT (over-the-top) streaming players are waking up to the opportunity for them in these times. We are getting several enquiries but really, the decision to divert from theatrical release would depend on how desperate the OTT platform is to buy the film out," said Siddharth Anand Kumar, vice-president, films and television, Saregama India, and producer at Yoodlee Films, which has released movies such as Brij Mohan Amar Rahe and Ascharyachakit directly on Netflix.

American streaming platforms with deep pockets such as Netflix are said to have paid 20-25 crore in the past to acquire direct-to-digital rights of films


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