Home / Industry / Media /  Top stars’ movies find direct release in OTT

NEW DELHI : Video streaming platforms are increasingly betting on popular stars for direct digital debuts in a marked shift from buying movies based on box office performance.

Akshay Kumar’s Cuttputtli, for instance, was acquired by Disney+ Hotstar. It is also likely to release two other films of the Bollywood star directly on the platform. Alia Bhatt’s Darlings made its debut on Netflix, while Karan Johar’s Govinda Naam Mera, starring Vicky Kaushal, Bhumi Pednekar and Kiara Advani, will be available on Disney+ Hotstar.

Producers of these movies realized that they may have little success in movie halls, while streaming services say a top star cast can fetch them more eyeballs and subscribers. “Streaming platforms have completely shut the door to small films featuring unfamiliar or those deemed non-saleable faces after burning their fingers with far too many direct acquisitions during the lockdowns. However, some teams feel A-list star movies, albeit, mid-sized and not requiring a theatrical experience go well with their market expansion plans and help on-board new subscribers," said a film producer, seeking anonymity.

Disney+ Hotstar, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video did not respond to queries.

Atul Mohan, editor of trade magazine Complete Cinema, said big stars create marketing hype for streaming services, especially, if the films are released directly on the platforms. “The experience also comes on the back of several small films managing little noise," Mohan said.

However, other media experts said movie stars could be impacted if their smaller films are streamed directly to millions of households. “The common perception would be their films are now available on home devices, at negligible rates, so why should a viewer spend on a ticket to watch an upcoming title in theatres? It could impact the buzz around and business of their other bigger films lined up," the producer added.

Filmmakers are also experimenting with commonly-followed Hollywood marketing strategies, wherein actors dabble in feature films for theatrical releases, as well as web originals for OTT platforms. However, the Indian market hasn’t matured enough to reap in the benefits of such a strategy, he added.

Mint earlier reported that shows featuring popular stars draw audiences from the smaller towns and cities to OTT platforms. Web series starring Ajay Devgn, Salman Khan and Madhuri Dixit witnessed high viewership. While Devgn’s Rudra: The Edge of Darkness was the most watched show on Hotstar for its subscription video-on-demand plan, Dixit’s The Fame Game was the second most watched Hindi web series on Netflix.

Karan Taurani, senior vice-president, Elara Capital Ltd, said direct-to-digital releases for movies will only benefit OTTs in the near term. “At the moment, the economics may not be favourable for some producers to release their films in theatres. However, cinema footfall will see a strong comeback now that the window between theatrical and digital premiere is reversed to eight weeks. Plus, platforms will get to acquire these films for half the cost after a theatrical release. So, it will be a win-win for all," Taurani added.

Lata Jha
Lata Jha covers media and entertainment for Mint. She focuses on the film, television, video and audio streaming businesses. She is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism. She can be found at the movies, when not writing about them.
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