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India's top two multiplex chains PVR Cinemas and INOX Leisure Ltd are refusing to screen the Hindi version of Kangana Ranaut’s Thalaivii, saying the window to its Netflix premiere is too narrow, said two film trade analysts on condition of anonymity.

Based on the life of iconic actor-politician J.Jayalalithaa, Thalaivii is slated for release on 10 September. It is co-produced by Vishnu Vardhan Induri and Shailesh R. Singh, along with Zee Studios.

The Hindi version on Netflix is slated for a premiere within a fortnight of release in theatres. The Tamil and Telugu versions, on the other hand, have been acquired by Amazon Prime Video.

The people cited above said PVR and INOX are demanding a four-week window between its debut in theatres and on the digital platform.

PVR and INOX did not respond to Mint’s query on the issue.

But the producers, fearing that the pandemic will hit box office returns, want a quick premiere on a streaming service which pay higher rates for the film.

“We are in the business of filmmaking and our first priority is to recover the investment made for this film. The easiest thing for us to do would have been to opt for a direct-to-digital release and in fact, we had received many offers. But we have waited to bring this film to the big screen," Thalaivii producer Induri said.

The team, Induri added, is still in conversations with multiplex chains to seek cooperation in this unprecedented scenario where multiple states are operating at 50% seating caps, no night shows and with audiences generally remaining wary of visiting theatres.

“A quicker OTT (over the top) premiere will help safeguard our investment better. They (multiplexes) should compromise at this point. I can’t jeopardize my career and all that we have spent on this project," the producer said.

To be sure, several film trade experts point out that Bollywood is not likely to continue with the standard eight-week window between theatrical and digital premieres even when things are back to normal. Instead, it could look at streaming films within four weeks.

The situation is even more uncertain right now as a big market like Maharashtra is still shut for films and restrictions are in place in other states.

Tinkering with the traditionally acceptable window is bound to upset exhibitors who feel that consumers may be in two minds about going to cinemas if the movie starts streaming within a couple of weeks of its release in theatres.

Even prior to covid, shows of many Bollywood titles such as 1921 and Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana were cancelled by multiplexes when the producers negotiated OTT deals within days of the theatrical releases.

Hollywood studios are ahead in dealing with the uncertainties caused by the pandemic. They have released movies simultaneously on streaming platforms and in theatres.

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