‘Theatres likelier choice for new releases than OTT’

With theatres across the country opening up from Thursday, Ashish Saksena, COO — Cinemas at BookMyShow, said he expected producers and audience to prefer theatres for new movie releases over OTT players such as Amazon Prime and Netflix.

He, however, added that both platforms would continue to coexist.

“I don’t think we can wish any one format away… OTT was there even before lockdown and there were movies being released on TV… Theatrical business, unlike in the U.S., is very large in India and contribute about 60-65% of the overall revenue…there are a lot of movies that also waited it out,” he told The Hindu.

He added that OTT platforms would continue to remain an option and not disappear just because theatres had reopened. “I think theatrical releases will again gain priority once theatres open and movies start coming…people are waiting to go for that and cinemas are investing in it.”

“I think they will coexist. I won’t say that one will eat up the other one, but I think the movie market is pretty well defined. And once that is open, I think theatre will be a primary choice of a producer as well as an audience,” he said.

BookMyShow, which is also gearing up for reopening if theatres after nearly six months, has rolled out ‘My Safety First’ feature to create awareness amongst consumers on the various levels of safety and hygiene measures available across different cinemas listed on its platform.

The feature will list available safety indicators such as in-cinema seat distancing, thermal screening, contactless security check, availability of hand sanitizers, daily temperature check for staff members, availability of packaged food & beverages, limited occupancy in restrooms, compulsory masks, social distancing in cinema premises and sanitization before every show.

A recent survey done by the platform among 4,000 active BookMyShow transactors found that 54% respondents were eager to get to theatres within 15-90 days of the lockdown lifting and 98% expected cinemas to implement strict safety and hygiene measures.

Askedwhether the theatres will be able to operate at 50% occupancy, Mr. Saksena said, “Surely it will not be easy at this point of time till the movies start releasing. It is a typical Catch-22 situation…whether movies will release when people start coming in or people will go when movies begin to be released…so I think it will have to be a balance between the two…but we do expect in some smaller way movies should start from the first week of November. Diwali would not be as big as any other year but it should be decent.”

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