The floodgates have opened with producer Anto Joseph announcing that he is in negotiation for the digital premiere of his Fahadh Faasil big-budget Malik and Prithviraj’s Cold Case with leading OTT platforms. This has lent credence to rumours now making the round that veteran director Priyadarshan's long in the making Marakkar : Arabikadalinte Simham, said to be costing around Rs 100 Cr will go the streaming way. The buzz is that Marakkar all rights including digital and satellite has been sold to a leading platform and it will have an OTT premiere in August.
A veteran Malayalam film producer and a member of the film chamber said: “ I don’t blame the producers, as nobody knows when cinema halls in Kerala and many other states in India will reopen. Even if the lockdown in Kerala is lifted theatres will be the last to reopen and strict restrictions like 50% of capacity and no night show will continue for some more time. This means it will not be commercially viable especially for big movies to recoup their budget from the theatrical release. Cinema business will take months to get back to pre-corona days.”
However, when sify.com contacted Priyadarshan, he said: “Marakkar is a big-budget film that can be enjoyed only on the big screen, even if I have to wait for another six months it will only have a theatrical release. Mohanlal, Antony Perumbavoor (producer and distributor), and me, we are on the same page as far as the release is concerned and we are sure a big tentpole film like Marakkar will have a big screen release before going the digital way.”
Priyadarshan justifies his “only theatre first” policy by asking: “Which OTT platform will pay me Rs 150 Cr for Marakkar digital premiere rights? That would include my cost of production and landing cost of the film which was scheduled to release in 5 languages in 5000 screens worldwide. It has been made for a theatrical experience for mass audiences. Don’t forget Marakkar has won three national awards including best picture and three state awards and should have a theatrical release first.”
Marakkar all rights have been pre-sold before release including digital. Amazon Prime Video holds the digital rights of the film and it will start streaming only after theatrical release. The makers of the film are clear that nobody has offered them the kind of money for a straight OTT release. It does not make commercial sense for a big-budget superstar-driven Malayalam film to go straight to OTT, as theatres bring in 70% of the total revenue. Now Malayalam satellite channels are insisting on theatre first, followed by OTT and then television premiere. At the same time, it is the small Malayalam films without stars that are making waves on the OTT’s. Of course, there are exceptions like a Fahadh Faasil film who has his own unique market.