It’s a double whammy for theatres


Cinema theatres are presently reeling under a double whammy — extended lockdown due to COVID-19 and films directly releasing on online streaming platforms, threatening their business even in a post-lockdown scenario.

With theatres shut down, film producers are taking cue from other industries and two Kannada films — French Biriyani starring Danish Sait, and Law — both produced by actor and producer Puneeth Rajkumar, are set to premiere on Amazon Prime in June and July.

But these are not the first films to premiere on Over The Top (OTT) platforms. Bhinna, directed by Adarsh Eshwarappa, premiered on Zee5 seven months ago.

B.S. Srinivas, Director, Purple Arrow Films, content aggregators, who sold Bhinna, welcomed the move by Mr. Puneeth but said it is too premature to say the OTT market has opened up for Kannada films. “Kannada is the least preferred content on OTT platforms. Selling Bhinna was an uphill task. Now the two films sold have the backing of a big star. We can say the market has opened up when small films without the backing of a star is sold as originals,” he said.

But this move by the Dr. Rajkumar family has set the cat among the pigeons. K.V. Chandrashekhar, chairperson, Karnataka Film Exhibitors’ Association, while acknowledging the rights of a producer to sell his/her content at the platform of their choice, said it does not augur well for the industry of which exhibitors are an integral part of. “But we are not very afraid of OTT platforms as nothing can replace film viewing experience on the big screen,” he said.

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Meanwhile, exhibitors are reeling under huge losses, Mr. Chandrashekhar said. The association, apart from seeking a financial assistance package from the government, has appealed to be allowed to open for screenings at least by June first week. “We are ready to operate at even 30% occupancy rate maintaining social distancing. We will also deploy thermal guns and ensure all safety precautions,” he said.

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Sagar Biswas

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