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Radhe’s multi-format release made Salman big bucks, but Bollywood unlikely to take that route

Radhe garnered 4.2 mn views across platforms, reinforcing the multi-platform release. But exhibitors say this won’t work once cinemas reopen even as OTTs remain hopeful.

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New Delhi: Actor Salman Khan’s latest Bollywood Eid offering ‘Radhe: Your Most Wanted Bhai’ has seemingly garnered a good response upon its multi-format release on 13 May.

In a statement Monday, Zee Studios said Radhe garnered 4.2 million views across various platforms, reinforcing that multi-platform simultaneous release is the “future of entertainment” and will grow multi-fold in the years to come.

“…Radhe emphatically demonstrates the success of a hybrid release and shows an effective model of releasing a film during these very tough times,” the statement said.

In the wake of the rising Covid cases in the country and the pandemic-induced lockdown in several states, the film was released on Zee Network’s OTT platform ZEE5, with the pay-per-view service ZEEPlex. The film also released on leading DTH operators on a pay-per-view basis, apart from getting a theatrical release in international markets.

Since the pandemic struck last year, several Hollywood titles have had simultaneous theatrical and streaming releases, including Disney’s Mulan (2020) and Warner Bros’ Godzilla vs Kong.

The statement quoted Shariq Patel, chief business officer, Zee Studios as saying that this “unique and never-seen-before distribution strategy” ensured Radhe’s widest possible reach to the audience at a place and time of their choice.

Radhe is co-produced by Salman Khan, Sohail Khan, and Atul Agnihotri under the banners Salman Khan Films, Sohail Khan Productions, and Reel Life Production, respectively, in association with Zee Studios.

The Prabhu Deva-directorial was first slated for release on Eid last year, but had to be pushed back due to the lockdown that kept theatres and multiplexes shut till October 2020.

According to data shared by Zee Studios, in UAE, with theatre capacities running at 50 per cent, the film collected $3,79,000 on the opening day itself. This was not only higher than Salman Khan’s last film Dabangg 3 (2019) but also bigger than Godzilla vs Kong.

Radhe was released in 750-800 screens across UAE/GCC, US, Australia, Indonesia, New Zealand, Singapore, and the UK.

Also read: Pandemic gave opportunity to new OTT players in digital space: Sudhanshu Kumar, Founder of Bollywood Society

Is this a new trend?

Since March 2020, several Bollywood producers have released their films directly to video streaming platforms. OTT giant Disney+ released several big-ticket Bollywood titles last year — from Akshay Kumar-starrer Laxmii to late actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s Dil Bechara.

Radhe has marked the first big-ticket Bollywood movie to see a multi-format release. But some industry experts feel it is unlikely that every film will succeed with a release like this.

Film trade analyst Taran Adarsh said Radhe’s release probably grabbed a lot of eyeballs because it was an A-lister film. “It all depends on how things will go in the next few months, but for big ticket films, theatres will most likely remain the first choice,” he told ThePrint.

Adarsh added that while not all films may work when released in this format, a Salman Khan-movie would do well “as there is a lot of interest in it”.

“Film economics works a certain way. The film was already delayed by nearly a year. Such a delay adds to the interest, overall budget,” he said, on why Radhe didn’t wait any longer for a purely theatrical release.

Theatre and multiplex owners also feel this won’t set a new trend, but is just among a handful of cases in view of the pandemic situation.

Kamal Gianchandani, president of the Multiplex Association of India (MAI), said these are unprecedented times and exceptional circumstances have compelled some producers to release films digitally.

Gianchandani, who is also the chief executive of PVR Pictures and chief of strategy at PVR Ltd, said a number of big-ticket films in Hindi, Telugu and other languages were lined up in March for theatrical releases over the year. This included Sooryavanshi, Bunty Aur Babli 2, Jayeshbhai Jordar, Prithviraj, Jersey, Satyamev Jayate, among others.

“…given all economic activities are shut, it’s natural that some producers would like to take out their films on digital platforms, but most would like to hold back,” he said. “It’s not a trend, but I’d say producers are making the most of what is available.”

The MAI has been in touch with Maharashtra and the central government seeking support for the industry after it incurred massive losses. Theatres and multiplexes were opened in October last year after a seven-month closure but were shut again in April this year.

The industry lost 95 per cent of box office collection — approximately Rs 10,000 crore — last fiscal, according to industry sources. The Indian film industry’s annual domestic theatrical revenue was estimated at around Rs 11,520 crore in 2019, according to a FICCI-KPMG report.

Ravi Kottarakara, secretary of the South Indian Film Chamber of Commerce, a Chennai-based association of film producers, distributors and exhibitors, told ThePrint that a film’s content quality will guide the way forward on how producers would like to release their films.

“Ideally, films should be released in theatres for a month or 45 days before they are brought to OTT platforms, but again (it) is a call producers will take…” he said. “The thing with theatres is even mediocre films would do well in theatres.”

Also read: New OTT rules won’t stop Bollywood’s queer stories – Geeli Pucchi to The Married Women

What OTT platforms say

According to video streaming platforms, the coming weeks could see the release of many more films originally scheduled for a theatrical release.

Manish Kalra, chief business officer at ZEE5 told ThePrint that the platform will now be exploring a hybrid combination of buying and curating content.

“We recently announced the multi-format launch of Salman Khan-starrer Radhe on ZEE5 and in addition to this, there are 50+ theatricals and 40+ Originals waiting in the pipeline to go live making ZEE5 the ubiquitous choice for millions of entertainment seekers in 2021,” he said.

“A few of them will be multi-format simultaneous releases depending on how this situation evolves,” Kalra added.

On Radhe, he said, “With content consumption on OTT having sky-rocketed during the pandemic, we felt a hybrid release would be the perfect solution.”

A senior executive from another streaming platform also said producers may increasingly choose to release their films on OTTs.

“Under the current circumstances, if shooting resumes, the producers may not wait endlessly to release their movies in theatres, which in all likelihood, may not open with full occupancy,” said the executive who didn’t wish to be named.

According to a PricewaterhouseCoopers report, India is currently the world’s fastest growing OTT market, and will emerge as the world’s sixth-largest by 2024. There are about 40 OTT platforms currently operating in India.

(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)

Also read: Netflix stares at worst Q1 in 8 years after pandemic boom shudders to near-halt


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