Bollywood, Repelling from the Pandemic, Shifting to Streaming

“Coolie No. 1” has all the hallmarks of a big Bollywood film: colorful costumes, larger-than-life sets, foot-tapping music, and a sweet story about a man who pretends he has the wooing woman of his dreams There is a twin for. .

After shooting to wrap up in February, the film was set for a May theatrical release. But when “Coolie No. 1” finally hits the screen on Christmas day, it will not appear in one of India’s 3,000 theaters. Instead, it will debut on Amazon’s streaming service.

“I make films for the theater, but this time there was no way we could do that,” said director David Dhawan. After Burrell in coronavirus epidemic As cinemas have been closed, waiting for a theatrical debut has become harder, he said. Hence a deal to send the film to Amazon after transferring its release to a direct streaming plan.

“It’s an agreement, definitely,” said Mr. Dhawan, whose film is a 1995 blockbuster of the same name, which he also directed. “But at least my film is releasing.”

“Coolie No.1” is just one Bollywood film – Shorthand for India $ 2.5 billion Hindi-language film industry – Which has led to streaming in a year due to the epidemic. According to researcher Forrester, compared to last year, 28 big star-based Bollywood features known to cinemas went instead of direct streaming.

One of them was “Gulabo Sitabo,” a dark comedy starring veteran actor Amitabh Bachchan. “Shakuntala Devi, “A biopic by an Indian mathematician, the two began streaming on Amazon in July. Another,” Lakshmi “, a comedy-drama by Akshay Kumar, was released in November on Disney-owned streaming service Hotstar.

Shift echoes She of hollywood, Where epidemics have pushed studios to streaming for many films and, in some cases, as part of the first part. In September, Disney debuted “Mulan” on Disney +. Last month, Warner Bros. said that it would release.Wonder Woman 1984“On HBO Max and in theaters together on Christmas day. Later studio Announced It will stream all 2021 films to streaming and theaters at the same time.

The number of Bollywood films known for streaming is only a small part of the industry. Last year, Bollywood produced more than 1,800 films, or an average of 35 a week, according to a report by Ernst & Young, and domestic theatrical releases generated more than $ 1.5 billion in revenue.

Bollywood producers, filmmakers and experts said the outbreak of epidemics towards streaming is unimaginable.

Netflix, Amazon and Hotstar are all investing in India, one of the fastest growing Internet markets in the world. Companies that have jointly paid millions of Indian consumers have spent billions of rupees in the production of India-specific original content in various regional languages. According to Forrester, in 2020, he spent about $ 520 million to create content for the Indian audience, about $ 100 million more in 2019.

Netflix said it had invested nearly $ 400 million in the last two years to license and make more than 50 films and shows in India. Among them, 34 were original Hindi-language films.

“The current environment gave us some opportunities to add to our film slate, including some films that our members would have enjoyed in service after a theatrical release,” Netflix said in a statement. It added that it “already had a great faith in the original films for the service, and we are investing in it.”

Disney + also debuted in India during the April lockdown, which merged with Hotstar, one of India’s largest platforms. (Disney bought Hotstar as part of it in March 2019 $ 71 billion deal to acquire 21st-century Fox, Which is a company owned by Star India, then Hotstar’s parent company.) The combination pays customers with access to Disney’s library of global content in India.

Bypassing theaters is a big departure for Bollywood. India’s film industry has long relied exclusively on theatrical releases for revenue. According to analysts, when the epidemic sent theaters into lockdown, revenue fell by 75 percent Kpmg.

Even the government re-opened theaters in October, PVR Cinemas, the country’s largest multiplex chain Reported The lack of new films resulted in a net loss of Rs 184 crore or about $ 25 million for the quarter ended in September.

“Our revenue is low, as we are still making an incomplete offer,” said PVR Ltd Chairman and Managing Director Ajay Bijli. “It’s like having a restaurant without any food.”

The shutdown has forced the closure of some single-screen theaters permanently, which could mean less access to cinema experiences for most of India’s working class and rural population.

All of this is making it easier for new movies to have streaming services, even some theaters have reopened. Vijay Subramanian, director and head of content for Amazon Prime Video India, said, “Within four to eight weeks of their release there is a recent release opportunity, depending on the language, to a large group of customers.”

The investment made by streaming services in Bollywood content has also increased creativity. Analysts said that instead of the usual romantic or action-hero films with all-star cast, more shows and films are now focused on women, war and other subjects. More than half of the Netflix films released in India this year were from a female producer or director, the company said, and more than half of its Indian films and series have women as central characters.

Vikram Malhotra, the creator of “Shakuntala Devi” said, “The lowest common denominator or one-size-fits-all content strategy is slowly fading.” ‚ÄúPeople are demanding more subtle, more intellectually relevant content. These stories now need to make some sense. “

“Dhauli No. 1” director Mr. Dhawan said that there was still a hunger for big, colorful, sweet love stories on streaming.

“Every time, I think I’ll make a different kind of film,” he said. “But people did not let me change. They return to this great atmosphere, they laugh, they enjoy the sounds, they dance. “

And Sara Ali Khan, who plays a romantic interest, said she was excited for “Coolie No. 1” to debut as a streaming in theater.

“There is still excitement and nervousness before the film’s release,” she said.

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