In a first for on-demand movie streaming service in India, Amazon Prime Video has acquired the rights of seven Indian movies that would directly release on the OTT platform. Three of the movies are in Hindi, two in Kannada, one each in Tamil and Malayalam and a bilingual in Tamil and Telugu.
Besides the Amitabh Bachchan - Ayushman Khurrana comedy Gulabo Sitabo, the Hindi movies include the biopic of Indian mathematical genius Shakuntala Devi with Vidya Balan in the lead. The other movies that Amazon Prime has acquired include Tamil drama Ponmagal Vandhal, Law and French Biryani (both Kannada), Sufiyum Sujatayum (Malayalam) and Penguin (a bilingual in Tamil and Telugu.
The seven movies would be released over the next three months with Gulabo Sitabo scheduled to a global premiere on June 12, the company said in a prepared statement.
Prime Video subscribers would not have to pay any additional fee for watching these movies, which should just be what the doctor ordered for movie buffs in India who have been facing a nationwide lockdown since March 25 that also left close to 10,000 single screen and multiplex theatres in the country shut down.
T 3531 -Joined Film Ind., in 1969 .. in 2020 .. its 51 years !! .. seen many changes and challenges .. NOW another CHALLENGE .. DIGITAL RELEASE of my film GULABO SITABO !!June 12 Amazon Prime 200+ country's .. THAT IS AMAZING ! Honoured to be a part of yet another change pic.twitter.com/ccH2Qxh92DMay 14, 2020
Though the move is a welcome step for filmmakers and viewers, the theatre owners haven't taken kindly to it. Two of the largest multiplex chain owners PVR and INOX, which together account for 1,500 screens in India have released media statements suggesting that they were alarmed by the digital-only release of films.
“Such acts, though isolated, vitiate the atmosphere of mutual partnership and paint these content producers as fair-weather friends rather than all-weather life-long partners. Needless to say, INOX will be constrained to examine its options, and reserves all rights, including taking retributive measures, in dealing with such fair-weather friends,” said INOX in a statement.
A big win for Amazon
Amazon provides Prime Video in its $13-a-year plan that reaches 4,000 cities and towns in India and over 200 other countries. Though the company does not share numbers of its subscribers, the fact remains that since the lockdown, the 40-plus OTT platforms have all reported growth in subscriptions.
In a prepared statement, Gaurav Gandhi, Director and Country General Manager of Amazon Prime Video India, said “Indian audiences have been eagerly awaiting the release of these 7 highly anticipated films and we are delighted that Amazon Prime Video will now be premiering these movies for our customers – who can enjoy watching these from the safety and comfort of their homes and on a screen of their choice.”
There is no mention of how much the company paid to acquire the rights for these movies, though there were indications that it wasn't a big one. Ronnie Lahiri, the co-producer of Gulabo Sitabo told Huffington Post India that it was a win-win for both though there was no insane amount that they received from Amazon Prime.
Vijay Subramaniam, director and head, Content, Amazon Prime Video, India, told Reuters in an interview, that he did not see acquisition costs going up for the streaming platform.
He added: "There will be a reset in the way that producers and studios think about their portfolios".
Tamil movie Ponmagal Vandhal is scheduled to release on May 29 and stars Jyothika, Parthiban, Bhagyaraj, Pratap Pothen and Pandiarajan. It is a legal drama written and directed by JJ Frederick and produced by Suriya and Rajsekar Karpoorasundarapandian.
Penguin is a bilingual written and directed by Eshavar Karthic with national award winning actor Keerthy Suresh in the lead. The movie is scheduled to release on Amazon Prime Video on June 19.
Could this be the the harbinger of many more movies hitting the OTT platform without having to go for a theatrical release? Or will things normalise once the lockdown is removed and cinema watching becomes a celebration rather than something that one does sitting behind closed doors?
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