In Part 2 of this 2 part interview, MediaNama spoke with film star and producer Shah Rukh Khan on how film distributors would react to online premiers, how digital distribution of films to film theatres impacts the cost of ‘Print and Publicity’, and why he hasn’t used his influence to convert the entire film market to digital cinema.

In Part 1 of this series, he spoke with us about how the movie Ra.One lends itself to the digital space, whether the films digital initiatives will continue beyond the film, what it would take for digital IP to become significant contributor to revenues, and more.

Part 2 of the series:

MediaNama: Would you ever consider premiering the movie online? How would distributors react?

Shah Rukh Khan: I spoke with YouTube, and they would like to. They were talking about it. But I think it will have to have enough customers so that… what happens is that for a distributor is that…earlier, our film went on satellite not before 9 months of a release, then it became 6 months, now I know 3 weeks. I think they’re accepting the fact that the business of the film is mostly two weeks. There might come a time that you make a film which might not really be an eventful film for a theatrical release, but it can be every interestingly put on the digital medium. There might be times that you make a smaller film, but a very interesting film, and you keep it cheaper so that you keep in cheaper so that you cover your costs and release it primarily on the digital world, like people do with DVDs. For example, Tarzan Part II was only on DVD and never came to the theatres. So there might be demarcations like that earlier on, then the market may become so big… The digital world is not only going to end on the laptop, it will end up on your walls, on TV, all connected like electricity is. There will be no difference between watching it on a TV or a big screen or the phone, or projecting it bigger. So if that happens, why not premiere it like that?

MediaNama: What about targeting markets where Indian digital distributors are not impacted

Shah Rukh Khan: Online it is very difficult to do that. I don’t know if that kind of control can be done. Hamara ek gaana release hua, and in three hours – we tried to stop it and – it went completely out of hand. So once it goes on the digital medium, I don’t know how easy it would be to, and I’m not just talking about piracy, and how easy it would be so that it only goes to that specific market.

MediaNama: Would you consider releasing only digital prints/distribution for the movie to theatres, because you – at this point in time – have the reach and the power to end the analog piracy situation by going all digital?

Shah Rukh Khan: We have, actually. My distributors got around 3500 prints out of which 50-60% are digital. If we get a release partnership in China, we’re releasing 1000 digital prints there. China is a small market for an Indian film. If I try to make 1000 prints, multiplied by Rs 75,000 is a lot of money. Digitally, you just make Rs 75,000 rupee one print digitally, and put it all across. We’re doing that in Russia, with about 75 prints. We make 5 prints and put the rest digitally. It’s an amazing, amazing money saving thing. Second, by virtue of 600 theatres having 3D, 450 have to be digital, because we’re not doing the analog 3D. The future is going to be digital, and piracy stops. It’s encoded, can’t be cracked and you beam it out.

MediaNama: Why not change the entire market to digital?

Shah Rukh Khan: I think it will become digital only. I don’t think we need to change this market. I don’t know if you’re aware – already if you have a 2000 print release, 60-70% is digital. Smaller towns are more digital, because it is cheaper, faster, better and easier. Digital, in terms of quality, the crispness, we’re going to start shooting their biggest films digitally now. Some of the biggest films are being shot digitally. With all the love for the smell of film and celluloid, I think it is nearly on its last legs. Especially in a country like India – theatres are going every month by six or seven theatres a month, and if I have a small film that is a Rs 2 crore film, and I want it go out to everyone. Each (analog) print costs Rs 5 lakh even if I make it of the cheapest quality. You can’t afford to making prints more expensive than the film. I can say that I have a Rs 2 crore film, but I can send it to 1000 theatres and hope to recover Rs 2 crore even with a small film. It already is.

MediaNama: If you divide the production cost versus the print and publicity cost, what would that be like in case of a regular film and a digital film?

Shah Rukh Khan: Lets assume a film is Rs 30 crore, and you release 1000 prints. Each analog print is Rs 1 lakh, and that is Rs 10 crore is the cost of print if I go analog. Publicity, normally, for a Rs 30-35 crore film which is regular media, would be Rs 8 crore. A Rs 30-35 crore film will cost you Rs 50 crore by the time it releases.

Now you look at digital. A digital print costs Rs 1 lakh, and to beam it, you don’t really have to pay a lot of money. If I was to take a 1000 digital films, I say Rs 9 crore. But then you have to have all the theatres like UFO Moviez and Scrabble are doing it. Once they put it up, there’s a cost that they take, and the theatre hire is still there. That’s why people can now say that they’ve got 3500 prints, but if it was analog, it would be around Rs 35 crore, that’s a huge amount of money. You would never be able to even release Ra.One in 3500 prints in analog.

I would rather that, lets do 2000 (analog) prints, because we can lose that Rs 15 crore in some places. You would have to play the number like that, but because of the digital aspect of it, we can go in much larger numbers, and get the money back in 3-4 days.