Filmstar Kamal Haasan is planning to release his film Vishwaroopam on DTH platforms eight hours before a theatrical release, reports Zee News: a one time show is being priced at a significant premium to theater prices, but the move still upset theater owners because it may take business away from them. The DTH release of the film is being priced at Rs 1000. A few points to note:
- Dependency on theaters, and impact of pre-release: Typically, films release on DTH a few weeks to a few months after the release in theaters. At least in case of Bollywood (and Vishwaroopam is Tamil Cinema, so the trend might be different) around 70% of the revenues are made in the first week itself. So while theater owners might not be averse to a film releasing on DTH a couple of weeks after their theatrical release, there might be a fear that a DTH release might impact their collections if initial reviews are not good.
- Negotiating power of theater chains: There has been a consolidation in the theater business, with single screen halls being replaced by multi screen theaters, and the rise of theater chains (PVR, BIG, INOX) has led to the consolidation of significant negotiating power with them. A digital direct to consumer release could possibly reduce the producers dependency on theater chains, and frankly, the Internet could play an important role here, especially for international distribution. Note that movie producers are supporting Hasaan’s move, while Tamil Nadu Film Exhibitors’ Association and Tamil Nadu Theatre Owners Association have said they won’t co-operate with a theatrical release if Hasaan doesn’t reconsider his decision, as per a report in The Hindu.
- Online releases: Online releases are also being seen as a means of countering piracy, because invariably, these films make it to torrent sites for download shortly after theatrical release. It’s not that online releases have not been tried before: Rajshri Media had released Vivaah online for an international audience on a download to rent back in 2006, but it was a simultaneous release, and targeted international markets. However since then, first-day-first-show releases online haven’t quite become the norm, despite there being several online movie streaming sites like Rajshri.com, Eros, BigFlix, iStream, among others. Two services that are yet to be launched: BoxTV from Times Internet Limited, and MyStar from Star TV (News Corp).
- Local vs International release: Vishwaroopam will release on DTH and target the local market, providing an alternative to going to the theater, and getting an exclusive first access to a film, and possibly bragging rights to a viewer who might otherwise land up for first-day-first-show. In contrast, Vivaah was a simultaneous release, and targeting international markets, thereby not impacting collections in India.
Hasaan is doing two things of note here: the DTH premiere is at a significant premium to theaters, so this shouldn’t impact theaters significantly – would someone pay three or four times for an eight hour head-start on a movie? Secondly, Hasaan is not taking a minimum guarantee from theater owners or distributors (as per the Hindu),
Still, this move could lead to more films being premiered at a high cost on DTH, and possibly even on the Internet, prior to a theatrical release. Watch this space.