Theatres and OTT; Battle for film viewership in Mollywood

Discussions and talks are going on now over the release of upcoming Mollywood movies on OTT platforms and theatres.  Theatrical and digital release, which one is a better option and which one is the right option- suggestions have been thrown by many including the artists in the film industry forefront.

OTT platforms have become the only way for film releases, which has redefined the movie viewing experience for many audiences especially after the Covid-19 lockdown. The talk about the digital release has once again grabbed the attention because of the film producer Antony Perumbavoor’s move to release via digital platforms at least five upcoming Mohanlal films, including the big-budget Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham. It has triggered a debate on the economics of over-the-top (OTT) subscriptions vis-a-vis theatre screening.

The prime reason behind Antony Perumbavoor’s decision to opt for an OTT release is that the big-budget movie Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham produced by Ashirwad Cinemas will take at least three weeks to make a good income. In this situation, and getting the expected revenue is a concern from theatres.

Another major film  Dileep’s  Keshu Ee Veedinte Nadhan is also going the OTT way, along with Nivin Pauly’s Kanakam, Kamini, Kalaham, and Tovino Thomas’s Minnal Murali.  This indicates that OTT platforms are ready to spend on big movies with banking stars. However, the business model is different when it comes to movies with low budgets and smaller actors, industry experts say.

Although the content is the real king, many moviegoers take an interest to watch the movies directly in the nearest theaters. When the theaters reopened with a moderate response from the audience, the intense discussion about the future of the theaters took over the Malayalam film industry and the cinema audience.

On the other hand, Video streaming platforms have definitely made watching movies affordable, convenient, and ‘anywhere’, especially for those who like to watch a lot. The discussion was held on OTT platforms getting benefits from spending a huge amount on movies. Moreover, the difference between releasing movies on OTT and theatres has been widely discussed.

Vivek Ramadevan, managing director, Catalyst Entertainment Consultancy Pvt Ltd said “ OTT platforms bought films after paying a huge premium to premier them with at the start of Covid lockdown. Some of the movies have been benefited from the decision. But many are not satisfied with the rates offered for them, so they had to wait for theatre release. Films like Drishyam 2 might have helped the subscriber count to be peaked and reached a saturation point.”

For regional languages, OTT platforms open up a wider audience base. A recent study by FICCI said regional language content will make up around 50 percent of streaming video consumption by 2025. 

However, many Mollywood movies are ready for theatrical release as well as some are in the queue to release them on OTTs.