Verismo’s Mela has launched a First Day First Show initiative, wherein it will release Bollywood movies in international markets simultaneous to their theatrical release in India. They’re releasing Chaurahen across their platforms – on Roku, iPad and on their Mela HD Set Top Box. Chaurahen has been directed by Rajshree Ojha, and has an ensemble cast that includes Soha Ali Khan, Victor Banerjee, veteran Bollywood actress Zeenat Aman, and Kiera Chaplin, granddaughter of the silent film superstar Charlie Chaplin. Mela earlier released Puja Jatinder Bedi’s Ghost and Sudish Kamath’s Good Night Good Morning as a part of the First Day First Show initiative.

A few thoughts about this:

– Not new: It isn’t that First Day First Show hasn’t been done before: back in 2006, Rajshri Media made its home production Vivaah available for download on the same day as its theatrical release. Several other movies movies have been released online at the same time as their offline release.

– Big budget releases needed: Chaurahen isn’t particularly well known, and not a major studio production, so it was perhaps easier to get the film for first day first show. The real push needs to come by releasing potential blockbusters with stars, which will be a tough nut to crack for any online streaming service. Sab Kanaujia, the General Manager of Mela, comments in the press release that they’re starting with mid- to small budget movies under this initiative, they’re going to look to acquire big budget movies over time. In my opinion, a same day online release is a better than releasing it a few weeks later, because you can at least monetize the early adopter audience that way. If the movie flops, then the chances of someone paying for it online are low.

– Offline distribution pressure: the challenge that online streaming services face is from offline distributors – a film depends on its first week for around 70% of its revenue, hence for big studios to release the film online is a risk that might impact their relationship with the film distributors, and distributors with theatres. Hence, a film sees multiple releases – there’s a theatrical release, a TV release, a DVD release, and of late, an big bang online release if someone is willing to shell out the money (especially in case of YouTube backed releases, where it used blockbusters to popularise its movie streaming initiative BoxOffice). I’d be really surprised if someone is able to strike a deal for First Day First Show in India.

We’re still waiting for multiple online streaming services to be launched: Indiatimes’ Box TV, EROS  is launching Eros Now, and there’s been one pending from STAR. Zee recently launched its online subscription service Ditto TV, and Sony has Video Chaska. Btw, it looks like NDTV’s Tubaah.com, tabaah ho gaya: it redirects to NDTV Video. *grin*

But what do you think? Will First Day First Show get people to subscribe, or is it more about the library?