CHENNAI: Reliance Jio’s disruptive concept of letting premium JioFiber users see films on the date of their release as part of its first day first show plan, has ruffled quite a few feathers, largely those of exhibitors.
In a statement, Inox Leisure pointed out that the present system of an exclusive theatrical window of eight weeks—that is followed internationally—has the approval of producers, distributors, and theatre owners. It added that the producer could choose between theatrical exhibition and any other means of release, but not both at once.
PVR Cinemas drew attention to the uniqueness of a theatrical experience, and noted that even in developed markets like the US, China and Europe, theatres co-existed with streaming giants like Netflix.
Kannada producer-director Pawan Kumar who’s made cult films like U Turn and Lucia, shared his belief that the whole first day first show craze is about people’s love for watching films with friends in theatres. “Such an initiative has been hinted at before but didn’t take off.
Producers and distributors will definitely fight this,” he said. Kannada superstar Rakshit Shetty agreed, and noted that cinema is designed to be watched in theatres, given the amount of effort makers put into designing sound.
Some theatre owners didn’t think it would be financially feasible to stream new films on the day of its release. AR Vinod, the owner of Kochi-based Crown Cinema, is convinced that such an initiative could be too expensive for the consumers to be practical.
“Netflix’s penetration is minimal for this reason. Can Jio come up with an attractive price for the common man?” he asked.
Ruben, owner of GK Cinemas in Chennai, expressed similar doubts over the financial viability of the model. “A film with a top actor gets sold for `60 crore. How’s a company ever going to buy films regularly for such amounts?” he asked.
Tiruppur Subramaniam, president of the Tamil Nadu Theatre and Multiplex Theatres’ Association, rubbished the whole announcement as a publicity stunt.
“Didn’t they promise to sell mobile phones for Rs 500? People panic each time someone makes such an announcement. Let Jio come up with a working plan first and then we will worry about tackling it,” he said.
But Reliance also has a film distribution wing. It’s conceivable that these films could be made available in its FDFS service.
Not everyone feels it’s a bad idea though. Narayan Srinivasan, film distributor and former director of Mumbai Film Festival, thought it could be useful for small and medium-budget films. “But,” he added, “such an initiative could sound the death knell for theatres in India.”
Interestingly, actor Kamal Haasan, who has been ahead of the curve in filmmaking strategies and techniques, considered releasing Viswaroopam as a digital release a few years ago, but faced stiff opposition from theatre owners.
Director-producer-actor Parthiban, whose film, Otha Seruppu, is ready for release, added, “Filmmakers like me have to come up with novel strategies to figure out solutions,” he pointed out.