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NEW DELHI : The impressive box office collections of big-ticket Diwali releases such as Sooryavanshi and Annaatthe have revived the confidence of filmmakers in theatres and though the recovery may seem slow, fewer films will go directly to digital platforms, said film trade analysts. Malayalam star Mohanlal has just announced the theatre release of his much-delayed period drama Marakkar, Arabikadalinte Simham on 2 December, though the earlier buzz was that producers are keen on an over-the-top (OTT) release. Other than Abhishek Bachchan-starrer Bob Biswas, which will stream directly on ZEE5 according to media reports, no Bollywood film has announced a digital premiere in the past few weeks.

Upcoming titles such as Ayushmann Khurrana’s Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui and Karan Johar’s Govinda Mera Naam have already sold rights for streaming after these films release in theatres.

Telugu action film Akhanda, too, will first release in cinemas.

“Most films that were ready for release before covid and had to decide on a direct-to-digital premiere have done so. Now, most films being produced are being made specifically either for the big screen or as digital films. Hence, we are not seeing as many acquisitions for direct-to-digital now as compared with last year," said Gautam Jain, partner at media consulting firm Ormax.

Further, revenge viewing is in full swing and the next few titles scheduled for cinemas should see good footfall, said trade experts.

In the last phase of direct-to-digital releases, Telugu mystery thriller Drushyam 2, Hindi language horror film Chhori, and Malayalam releases such as Bro Daddy, Monster and Minnal Murali, which will premiere across OTT platforms over the next few weeks, had all locked in deals several months ago when there was no clarity on reopening of theatres across different states.

It still makes sense for Malayalam films to go the OTT route given that the limited theatre market within the home state of around 300 cinemas has not opened up completely, said independent trade analyst Sreedhar Pillai.

“The maximum revenue that a Malayalam film can make in cinemas is 20-25 crore. If an OTT offers them the same, there is no point in waiting," Pillai reasoned.

On the contrary, for Tamil and Telugu films, the theatre market is most crucial, he said. Some films from the southern industry have got good feedback from audiences across the country, which has encouraged OTT platforms to increase acquisitions in the southern languages, besides dubbing them in multiple other languages, Jain said.

“OTTs are quite clear they need to focus on growing regional markets such as those in the south now. Also, most direct-to-digital acquisitions, especially in Hindi, have not yielded great results, for either services or producers who feel there will be better recovery and more chances of grabbing eyeballs on the big screen," said a senior executive at a streaming platform who did not wish to be named.

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