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The recent Tamil blockbusters – Kamal-starrer Vikram and Maniratnam-directed Ponniyin Selvan-1 – have raked in over Rs.400 crore. But their release on the OTT has stopped their further box-office collections.  In a way, it is a setback to the owners of cinemas. In that case, they may take some action that will likely affect small-budget films.

When a blockbuster gets released on the OTT, the inflow of viewers to the theatres will shrink. Hence, a demand is now raised that a film’s OTT release must be permitted only eight weeks after its release in the theatres.

The general secretary of the Theatre Owners’ Association, in a letter to the members, is said to have expressed concern over the OTT releases that affect the theatre owners and the distributors.  He has also reportedly said that the producers are least bothered about this problem and demanded that a consultative meeting of the producers be held to discuss the issue threadbare.

On the one hand, technology is hailed as a changemaker in the film world; on the other, it is seen as a rival. It is worth remembering here what ace actor Kamal Haasan told writer Balakumaran way back in the 1980s: “Why do you want to make a foray into the film world at a time when the world of glamour and glitz is slowly dying?”

Back in the day, Tamil cinema cried foul at the dominance of television that used to telecast films, weaning viewers away from theatres. AVM Studios, however, in an act of turning adversity into advantage, announced a scheme that would present TV sets to the viewers as part of an ad blitz for its film ‘Sankar Guru’, an Arjun-starrer. As it turned out, the otherwise ordinary film was catapulted to blockbuster status.

Kamal Haasan is one of the rare breed of film personalities who always welcome technology.  Prophetic of the future influence of technology, he wanted to experiment with the idea of taking films into the drawing rooms.  But his innovative plan for his controversy-stained ‘Vishwaroopam-1’ did not take off.  When the film world was buffeted by the specter of video piracy that, many complained, ate into the income of several films, it was Kamal who suggested simultaneous release of a film and its DVD version so the producer can double his income. Even director Cheran had a shot at bringing films into the drawing rooms of the viewers’ houses.  But his attempt proved a damp squib.

Also Read: 2021 showed Tamil movies could ascend to world class

Interestingly, where the big shots failed, an invisible virus succeeded. During the times of pandemic which kept the world invariably indoors, theatres were closed for months on end and film shoots stopped. The film industry was on the rocks. Doomsayers said that very soon the industry would call it a day. However, dispelling the fears, the OTT provided a way-out, creating a glossy platform for new films and thereby earning the film-makers good revenue.

When the film world was buffeted by the specter of video piracy that, many complained, ate into the income of several films, it was Kamal who suggested simultaneous release of a film and its DVD version so the producer can double his income

Ponmagal Vandhaal was the first film released on the OTT when theatres had downed shutters, followed by Vijay Sethupathi’s Ranasingham and Surya’s Soorarai Potru. All these OTT films went down well with the people, who now had a laidback viewing from their private couches.

But all this went on till the time the theatres reopened. Now the tongues wagged the other way.

Several film-makers started fearing if the OTT platform would take a toll on the revenue of the theatres. Yet, big films such as Jaibheem, Sarpatta Parambarai directly released on the OTT and made it big. Then, in a move to reverse this trend, actor Vijay’s film Master and Sivakarthikeyan’s Doctor hit the screen directly post-pandemic and earned rave reviews and good revenue as well.

This is okay for big movies.  But the case with the small budget films is quite different.  The makers of such small films could not find theatres for releasing their films and so found the OTT platform an alternative. So, the OTT platform has become the fulcrum for small budget films. Taanakkaran, Saani Kayitham were such direct OTT releases.

Yet the theatre owners have ensured that a film released in theatres is not shown on the OTT, at least, for weeks. It is only small films that are affected by the anti-OTT attitude of theatres.

Also Read: Will film release on OTT lead to closure of theatres?

As far as the people are concerned, unlike in the past, when a family goes to a theatre now, the expenses including those for transport, snacks, parking of vehicles etc. are staggering. Hence, for them, the OTT platform is a boon. Theatres do not seem to have taken into consideration this factor while viewing the OTT outlet as their rival.

The OTT platform is, in fact, a dignified alternative for makers of small-budget films because it has dispensed with the age-old importance of theatres for releasing films.  But the rule that only after four weeks of being released in theatres, a film must be shown on the OTT will be a deterrent to the small-budget films.

In case the theatre owners, in their bid to rein in the blockbusters, slap a rule that an OTT release must happen only eight weeks after the theatrical release, it will sound a death-knell to only small-budget films. Will the theatre owners be considerate to the state and the fate of makers of small-budget films?

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