Filmmakers, theatre chain owners clash over digital release of films; audiences say one year of subscription costs less than one bucket of caramel popcorn

15 May, 2020 | Priyanka Sharma

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After announcement of the digital release of Gulabo Sitabo and Shakuntala Devi, filmmakers and theatre chain owners have found themselves on two opposite sides of the fence.

Ever since the entry of streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon Prime in India, the multiple stakeholders in play, primarily the producers, theatre chain owners and cinema-goers have been engaged in a debate of the digital release of films. In the post corona era, this debate has further aggravated amid a common conception that theatres are going to be closed in a long haul due to social distancing, which is the need of the hour if the spread of the deadly virus is to be stopped.

As we all wait for the better days, the makers of Bollywood films, Gulabo Sitabo starring Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushmann Khurrana, as well as, Shakuntala Devi starring Vidya Balan have taken the digital route and will now be releasing directly on Amazon Prime. While the announcement has provided a ray of happiness and excitement for cine-goers who are now stuck at home, it has not gone down well with theatre chain owners like INOX.

Just within hours of Gulabo Sitabo’s announcement, INOX released an official statement condemning the decision. In its official statement, INOX wrote that they express extreme displeasure and dissapointment over the production house to go digital with its film. Cinemas and content creators have been in mutually beneficial partnerships where one’s revenues impacts another and forgoing this agreement in these trying times is very disturbing. They also threatened to take ‘retributive measures’ against the production house.

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As a response, Producers Guild Of India have now come to defence that these are unprecedented times where production houses, just like these theatre chains, are facing losses of worth hundreds of crores. Sets are being pulled down, shooting schedules have been cancelled, there is huge backlogging of releases and the cost of all this is being borne by the producers. In times like these, producers need to continue be in the business and that would be only possible if they keep producing. Once this situation is over, cinemas will be lit again because movies are meant to be experienced and enjoyed that way.

So where do the audiences stand? Well they believe, it is time that the exhibitioners adapt with the changing times. Some also call it Karma, for changing exorbitantly for popcorn and water bottles. After all, one year of subscription costs less than one bucket of caramel popcorn. Amid these trying times and an endless debate on cinema vs digital, it would actually be interesting to see if cinema decides to go digital and launch their own streaming platform.

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