Photo Credit: PVR
- In India, most films get an eight-week theatrical window
- Jio is looking to upend that with “First-Day-First-Show”
- It’ll face pushback from filmmakers, producers, distributors
Less than a day since Reliance Jio’s “First-Day-First-Show” announcement, which promises day-and-date movie releases for premium broadband customers starting mid-2020, India’s cinema chains — including the likes of PVR Cinemas, and INOX — have responded to Jio’s strategy that represents a threat to their business model. In their statements, PVR and INOX emphasised the value addition and growth potential of theatres for the film industry, the shared experience it offers and how it’s different from watching at home, pointed out the eight-week exclusive theatrical window that’s contractually in place, and noted how the traditional model has mutually benefited both the context makers and the distributors. Essentially, it’s the kind of statement you’d expect from entrenched players that have a lot to lose if this comes to pass.
INOX was more assertive in its statement, as it concluded that film producers would have to “choose between theatrical exhibition or release on any other platform, since release on both simultaneously would breach the mutually agreed exclusive theatrical window”: the aforementioned eight-week period. PVR stressed more on the economics of the sector, noting that cinemas accounted for 75 percent of the Rs. 17,450 crores (about $2.453 billion) industry revenue in 2018. But in noting the growth potential given the low density of screens in India, PVR ended up arguing for its soon-to-be competitor. Jio will no doubt promise film producers that they have an untapped market — which doesn’t have access to cinemas — they can reach through its platform.
In its statement, PVR also brought up the fact such day-and-date movie release initiatives have already been tried out in more mature markets such as the US and Europe, name-checking Netflix, and that it hasn’t affected cinemas. But the statement overlooked the fact that American and European cinema chains have effectively barred Netflix from pursuing day-and-date releases, with countries such as France having laws that prevent films from appearing on streaming services until 36 months after release in theatres. India doesn’t have that problem thankfully, with movies regularly appearing on the biggest streaming services — Netflix and Amazon Prime Video— right after the theatrical window closes, which is two months for Bollywood, and can be as short as a month for south Indian films.
Speaking to Gadgets 360 in June, Prime Video’s India content chief Vijay Subramaniam said film producers were happy to bring films after such a short period because it helped dissuade piracy, for one. (That will be another argument that Jio will likely make as it prepares for “First-Day-First-Show”.) He also claimed that films in south India have continued to run in cinemas for 75-100 days, despite arriving on Prime Video after a month, pointing out the love people have for the theatrical experience. But if one were to solely measure audiences’ views on the matter from the comments on PVR Pictures CEO Kamal Gianchandani’s tweet, you’d think that Indians don’t care that much for the theatrical experience, with most complaining about in-cinema advertisements, and the pricing of food and beverages.
Reliance Jio had no comment to the response from cinemas chains, and it didn’t share any additional details on the “First-Day-First-Show” initiative, noting it was too early for anything. It will be interesting to see how it shapes up, given there’s still nearly a year to launch. But given the early pushback from PVR and INOX, and the inevitable concerns for filmmakers, producers, and distributors, it’s highly unlikely that Jio will be able to offer all movies under its day-and-date release strategy. Fortunately for Reliance, it has the benefit of also being a distributor itself in Jio Studios, which has been involved in the likes of Kartik Aaryan, Kriti Sanon-starrer Luka Chuppi, and Imtiaz Ali’s next directorial venture. It’s a safe bet that Jio Studios films at least will be part of its controversial “First-Day-First-Show” programme.