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NEW DELHI: Malayalam language thriller Cold Case starring Prithviraj Sukumaran will skip theatrical release to premiere on Amazon Prime Video on 30 June. Sukumaran plays a cop in the film directed by Tanu Balak and produced by Anto Joseph.

Having remained wary of direct-to-digital releases during the lockdown last year, southern language films have followed Bollywood into skipping the theatrical medium as cinemas remain shut for the time being. While titles like Malaysia to Amnesia (Tamil), Thank You Brother (Telugu) and Mohan Kumar Fans (Malayalam) have already started streaming, Nayanthara-starrer Netrikann and comedy Sumo also in talks with platforms.

Trade experts say there is no doubt that the southern film industries were the first to take advantage of theatre re-openings earlier this year when they even managed returns in niche, focused markets. But they have now realised this is the second year in a row that they have to wait indefinitely for clear theatrical windows after presuming the pandemic was over.

A film studio executive who did not wish to be named said the southern movie industries have woken up to the gravity of the situation late since they managed a few money-spinners earlier this year, including Telugu comedy Jathi Ratnalu, courtroom drama Vakeel Saab, Dhanush’s Karnan and Vijay-starrer Master. But the prevailing uncertainty around re-opening of theatres and audiences returning, is hitting them now and they are scrambling for digital premieres. “They were pretty confident of bringing films out around January when most Hindi filmmakers were holding back. With the crisis showing no signs of abating now, they’re worried. In contrast, Bollywood has been wary for a year now," the person said.

The past few films may have been initial experiments but OTTs will soon crack the code to reaching wider audiences at the right price point with hybrid or subscription-driven release models, Yusuf Shaikh, business head, feature films at production and distribution company Percept Pictures.

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