India Argues Over Direct to Streaming Movies

Recent moves by several Indian producers to bypass theatrical release and instead secure direct to streaming outings for their movies has caused a spat within India’s production, distribution and exhibition sectors.

As Amazon Prime Video signed up half a dozen movies, and Disney Plus Hotstar and Netflix were rumoured to be sourcing other titles, the Multiplex Association of India jumped in to defend cinemas.

“We urge all studios, producers, artistes and other content creators, to kindly respect the exclusive theatrical window, which has been a time-tested industry practice, agreed to by all stake-holders, not just in India, but even globally, for several decades,” it said in a statement.

After Amazon revealed its acquisition of “Gulabo Sitabo,” India’s second largest multiplex chain Inox fired its own salvo. Without naming the targets of its wrath, Inox decried content creators for not standing with exhibitors. “Inox will be constrained to examine its options, and reserves all rights, including taking retributive measures, in dealing with such fair-weather friends.”

On Friday, minutes after another Amazon announcement, the Producers Guild of India released a prepared statement that was more placatory and explanatory. “For producers to keep producing, they need to continue to be in business in the first place,” the PGI said, after first expressing disappointment at Inox’s threat of retaliation.

The PGI explained that producers alone bore the cost of interrupted shoots and interest costs. And, for completed films, they need a route to market not available while cinemas are closed. “Once cinemas re-open, (producers will) do all we can to bring audiences back in large numbers to experience our movies in the way they were always meant to be enjoyed – on the big screen.”

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