'Leo' Hindi ban: Regional filmmakers, distributors, and theatre owners call for discussions

Vijay. Photo: Youtube

South Indian filmmakers, producers, distributors, and theatre owners have urged the Multiplex Association of India to reconsider the eight-week OTT window rule, especially in light of the ban on the release of the dubbed version of the Vijay-starrer 'Leo'. They argue that the ban on a film like 'Leo' is not only affecting the filmmakers but also impacting the fans and even the multiplexes.
In North India, prominent multiplex chains have opted not to screen 'Leo' due to the film's makers failing to comply with the eight-week OTT window rule established by these chains.

Though associations in South Indian states allow films to be released on OTT after a gap of four to six weeks, the timeframe set by the Multiplex Association of India could create a major concern for smaller regional films which eye pan-India release through multiplex chains like PVR, Cinepolis and Inox.
Sophia Paul, who produced two blockbuster movies ‘RDX’ and ‘Minnal Murali’ said theatre owners should accommodate the needs of the filmmakers too. “Both my films were only released in Malayalam, so I am unable to comment on whether the stringent rule set by multiplexes in North India would affect a film if it chooses to be released there. However, since exhibitors always demand a time frame for OTT releases, they should also be willing to accommodate all films in theatres for the stipulated time frame. Most exhibitors drop non-profitable films within a week, which is an unfortunate scenario,” she said.

The 8-week window rule, at present, is only applicable for movies, which choose to release dubbed Hindi versions in North India. This could be the reason why the Hindi version of Dulquer Salmaan-starrer ‘King of Kotha’, was released on October 20, while the dubbed versions in other languages were released on OTT in September itself. Though the makers did not comment on this, the film director Abhilash Joshiy thought that the eight-week period was good so more people would feel the urge to reach theatres.

“If a film releases on OTT in four weeks, then a majority of the viewers will be tempted not to go to theatres. Right now, films are being safely sold before release and theatrical run of films are not valued. OTT is here to stay, but we need the best of both worlds for the growth of cinema as a whole,” he said.

Ravi Kottarakkara, who is the president of the South Indian Film Chamber of Commerce, said everyone should get a slice of the pie and benefit equally. “In North India, the window period is eight weeks. Hence, exhibitors there would believe it would be a huge loss for them if they allowed films to stream on OTT before that. Producers and OTT platforms should get into an agreement allowing some leeway if they both want to benefit from the process. With the advent of OTT, there is a lot of risk involved now, so this should be thought out well before making a deal,” he said.

Meanwhile, exhibitors in North India, believe the trend of South Indian movies releasing within a short period on OTT does not bode well for the film industry as a whole. Taran Adarsh, a trade analyst and film critic, said multiplex chains are not willing to budge from the 8-week OTT period for either Bollywood or any other language films releasing in Hindi. They believe it is better to stick with the eight-week rule. Not all multiplexes are, however, particular about this 8-week gap for other language films,” he said.

M C Bobby, former general secretary of Film Exhibitors United Organisation of Kerala (FEUOK), said initially they also had planned on an eight-week OTT window period for films in Kerala. However, they decided to reduce it to 42 days taking into consideration the concerns of the filmmakers. “At present, we are following the six-week OTT window period. Some filmmakers still release the movie on OTT in four weeks. Once those movies start streaming on such platforms, we immediately stop screening in theatres, even if they are raking in good business. This applies to all films in every language,” he said.

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