To capture pent-up demand for new Bollywood releases, over-the-top (OTT) multi-screen platform Disney+ Hotstar on Monday forayed into movie premieres — a domain monopolised by theatre screens for over a century.
The OTT platform has lined up a clutch of Bollywood releases awaiting theatrical premiere for some time now.
From the Akshay Kumar-starrer Laxmmi Bomb to Ajay Devgn’s Bhuj: The Pride of India, Hotstar has announced at least seven new films that will be released on its platform this year.
Starting July 24, Hotstar will release these films, begining with Sushant Singh Rajput and Saif Ali Khan-starrer Dil Bechara. According to Uday Shankar, president of The Walt Disney Company (APAC) and Star & Disney India, it’s a win-win for both — the platform and film producers and cast grappling with the prolonged shutdown of theatre halls due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Theatres are a special experience. They will always exist and thrive. The potential of the industry cannot be capped by the number of release windows and theatres available. The initiative will dramatically increase the number of films that can be made, giving film-lovers more films to enjoy and the creative community more films to make. We firmly believe this will generate massive momentum for more and different kinds of films to be made in India,” said Shankar.
Hotstar, the largest OTT player in the country after Jio (35.5 per cent market share) with over 30 per cent share of the market, continues to attract more audiences, compared to global leaders like Netflix (9.2 per cent) and Amazon Prime (14.8 per cent) in India.
This move comes at a time when the Rs 20,000-crore-a-year Indian film industry is impaired with lockdown of multiplexes and single-screen theatres — leaving it with no other avenue but to try and monetise the OTT platform.
Estimates suggest there are over 250-million OTT users in India. This number is expected to surpass 450 million by 2022.
According to Ajay Devgn, in future, both the platforms — theatre and OTT — will progress in tandem. “I took theatres where our films were meant to play for granted. However, two things happened suddenly and almost simultaneously. The pandemic threw all our comfort worlds into a tizzy. And, at the same time, the OTT medium that was a fairly new phenomenon gained huge significance as far as consuming entertainment was concerned. I think people will once again start looking forward to new film releases,” he said.
While affordable mobile broadband rates have aided OTTs’ growth since 2017, experts said the recent lockdown has further fuelled their growth and during the first two months of the lockdown —in April and May – 80 per cent jump in new subscriptions have been registered by leading platforms.