A day after Disney+ Hotstar, the video streaming platform owned by Walt Disney, announced the direct-to-digital release of seven Bollywood titles, theatre owners have found some reason to rejoice. Akshay Kumar’s action thriller Sooryavanshi and sports drama ’83 starring Ranveer Singh have confirmed theatrical releases for Diwali and Christmas this year respectively. Both movies are co-produced by Reliance Entertainment.
Needless to say, film exhibitors are most enthusiastic about the news.
“Exciting times ahead. Gearing up to release Rohit Shetty's Sooryavanshi on Diwali and Kabir Khan's ’83 on Christmas," PVR Cinemas tweeted.
The two Reliance productions, along with Salman Khan-starrer Radhe and Varun Dhawan’s Coolie No.1 have remained firm on going to theatres first even as a number of big-ticket and mid-size films opted for OTT releases. Trade experts have continually emphasized that the huge budgets of these films will be hard to recover by way of a digital release. In an earlier interview with Mint, Siddharth Jain, director, INOX Group, had said big-ticket releases will hopefully hit screens by the third quarter of this financial year, and that the small films going to digital platforms were aberrations.
As of 29 June, Disney+ Hotstar grabbed titles such as Akshay Kumar's Laxmmi Bomb, Ajay Devgn's Bhuj: The Pride of India, Alia Bhatt-starrer Sadak 2, Abhishek Bachchan’s crime drama The Big Bull, romantic action thriller Khuda Haafiz and comedy thriller Lootcase. The VoD (video on demand) platform had announced the release of Sushant Singh Rajput’s Dil Bechara last week.
“It is very disappointing that film-makers are opting for the digital-first route when we are just steps away from theatrical releases with the reopening of cinema halls across the country, taking all the necessary precautions. They just need to have some more faith and patience to hold the content for the big screens, that is what it was made for," Mohan Umrotkar, the CEO of Carnival Cinemas, said in a statement.
Bollywood has ended its worst first six months of the year with losses of over Rs1,000 crore as theatres remain shut for over 100 days now. The covid-19 pandemic has led to zero revenues for the first time ever for theatre owners and deprived the industry of a bunch of big-ticket, mid-size and small-scale films that could have together brought significant returns at the box office, especially during these summer months when schools are shut.