With the lockdown coming in place in mid-March, theatres across the nation and the world were shut down. Owing to the same, producer opted for the digital route to release their films instead of stalling them. Some film that skipped theatrical releases in recent times included Gunjan Saxena, Sadak 2, Laxmii, Chhalaang and many more.
While the films weren’t total duds, the majority of the releases failed to get good enough numbers for the streaming platforms. Talking about the most recent release, Akshay Kumar’s Laxmii was successful in gaining a massive number of viewers on its release but failed to continue the same on Day 2.
According to an insider, in comparison with the amount paid by Disney Hotstar to stream Laxmii, the film failed to gain more subscription as expectations by the streaming platforms. Given this, OTT platforms are now looking at ways to earn revenue, as a spike in the subscription is one of the major sources of income for them. In fact, sources state Amazon Prime Video is demanding an exclusive screening of Coolie No 1 for their internal content team.
According to Bollywood Hungama reports, owing to the recent direct to digital releases failing upon their releases, OTT platforms are now demanding an advance screening before deciding on the prize for a film. A source told the portal, “Bhuj: The Pride of India, which is another offering on Disney and Coolie No. 1, which has been acquired by Amazon, have both fetched huge amounts for direct to digital premiere and have been acquired by the giants without watching the film in advance. They paid the amount based on the names involved and the goodwill of the stakeholders in the market.”
This move has come as a respite for cinema owners. With limited income for OTT premiere, producers are left with no option but to release their films on the big screen to stand a chance to recover their investment.
As per sources, Amazon has requested an exclusive screening of Coolie No. 1 for the in-house content curation team. The insider said, “The giants are also exploring the possibilities to rework on contracts of other acquisitions, however, given that the dotted lines have already been signed, the chances to reduce the amount based on content is bleak. But the OTT players have realised the intent of Bollywood to make OTT their dumping yard and hence, they would buy a film only on merit of content and not the face value. Going forward, there lies no scope of being taken for a ride.”
The trade source added, “The business model of OTT is not meant to acquire feature films. This was an experiment in unprecedented times like COVID 19, which has clearly failed as Bollywood sold all the substandard products to OTT and filled their own pockets. Now the focus will shift on curating content exclusively of OTT platforms, with a film or two being an exception depending on several factors. A web series with no A-List stars gets the OTT players more eyeballs and income than an A-List star film acquisition. The idea is to get the viewers hooked on to the episodes and season and then make them renew the subscription for the second, third and subsequent seasons. It’s a clear business model, and there lies little scope of acquiring new films at astronomical rate. Laxmii is an eye opener given the blind buys.”
The source continued, “Most of the OTT films have failed to do well on the respective platforms, and their sale for digital premiere was more of an attempt to salvage the product. However, with back to back debacles, the OTT heads have now woken up and are planning to demand advance screening for all their acquisitions henceforth and decide on the price to buy the films based on the content. The discussions are still on, however, this inside buzz has left Bollywood producers by shock as this might cut short their income by a massive amount.”
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