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PVR, INOX unlikely to screen ‘Thalaivii’ over shorter digital premiere window

Based on the life of actor politician J.Jayalalithaa, Thalaivii is slated for release on 10 September. (Photo: Twitter @Karthikravivarm)Premium
Based on the life of actor politician J.Jayalalithaa, Thalaivii is slated for release on 10 September. (Photo: Twitter @Karthikravivarm)

  • The Hindi version of Thalaivii on Netflix is slated for a premiere within 14 days of release in theatres. The Tamil and Telugu versions, on the other hand, have been acquired by Amazon Prime Video, which will premiere after a month and will be screened by multiplexes too

NEW DELHI: Producers of Kangana Ranaut’s Thalaivii are in a fix with India’s top two multiplex chains, PVR Cinemas and INOX Leisure Ltd, refusing to screen the Hindi version of the film, given the small window before the digital premiere on Netflix, said two film trade analysts on condition of anonymity.

Based on the life of 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 of Thalaivii on Netflix is slated for a premiere within 14 days of release in theatres. The Tamil and Telugu versions, on the other hand, have been acquired by Amazon Prime Video, which will premiere after a month and will be screened by multiplexes too.

People familiar with the chains’ resistance to release Thalaivii (Hindi) said they 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.

The producers, meanwhile, feel that due to the pandemic, their box office returns will be impacted. To make up for it, they 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 Vishnu Vardhan 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 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," he said.

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 normalcy is restored. Instead, it could look at streaming films within four weeks.

The situation is even more uncertain right now as cinemas in big markets like Maharashtra remain shut and restrictions are in place in other states necessitating shrinking the release window on different platforms.

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. But right now, with the film industry having taken a severe hit owing to the pandemic, producers are keen to maximize returns quickly as the value and appeal of a film only diminishes with time.

Hollywood studios like Walt Disney and Warner Bros are several steps ahead in dealing with uncertainties caused by the covid-19 pandemic. Both have released titles like Black Widow, Mulan, Wonder Woman 1984 and Godzilla vs Kong, simultaneously on streaming platforms and in theatres over the past few months.

This July, the National Association of Theatre Owners in the US released a statement blaming Disney’s hybrid strategy for a “stunning second weekend collapse in theatrical revenues" of Black Widow. However, no chain has refused to play films yet.

A trade analyst said it was impossible for a producer to recoup significant portion of his investment through theatrical release at this point. “People are still scared of coming to cinemas. Entertainment is also the last priority for many when the economy is at its lowest," the person said, declining to be named.

For now, in Tamil Nadu which is Thalaivii’s primary market, only Chennai city is running night shows. In tier-two towns, theatre owners are holding back, despite government permits, the person added.

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