One of the biggest competition that cinemas business faces right now is the number of people subscribing to streaming services. With the pandemic and stay-at-home orders, this number has increased exponentially in the past year. In such a scenario, many production houses and filmmakers are weighing the pros and cons of releasing a film on streaming platforms versus theatrically.
While there are positives and negatives for both streaming platforms and theatrical releases, many independent production houses have narrowed down their choices to either cinema halls or streaming services, depending on the nature of film and the niche audience. Here are the pros and cons of releasing new movies on streaming platforms:
OTT platforms ensure a larger audience. Many films never reach the targeted numbers since the theatrical reach is limited, especially in the interior and remote parts of a country like India.
Fewer censorship delays
Since there is no governing or regulatory body for OTT platforms such as CBFC, BCCC etc. the films can be released rather quickly. Not only are the censor certification fees in India high, if cuts are proposed you may have to spend some time in the process and also give up the desired rating.
Streaming platforms allow creative freedom to the makers to a degree.
It is worth noting however that content provided on streaming platforms if found to be in violation of laws of the nation, still falls under the Supreme Court’s observation.
On-the go access
OTT content can be accessed anytime anywhere. While you are on commute or on a sudden urge or whim. There is also much repeat viewing of OTT content. The convenience factor is a big driver for many busy professionals to wait for a film to arrive on OTT platforms.
A film released on a streaming platform finds international exposure and viewership quite easily without any additional efforts on behalf of the filmmakers. It breaks the nationality and language barriers very easily.
Cons of releasing on Streaming Platforms
Not suitable for all types of films
Blockbuster content requires a theatrical release. On-demand and streaming platforms are more suitable for low-to mid tier budget films that are not forecast for a massive box office anyway. The dominant genre during the lockdown for releases was what are known as family films.
Streaming platforms cannot do justice to some genres such as period dramas, sci-fi and animation, 3-D films and many others due to the scale, the complexity, the sound effects. These are best enjoyed on the larger screen.
Not ideal for all formats
As mentioned above, some experiences can’t be replicated at home on streaming platforms. 70mm, IMAX and 4DX have a certain thrill that can only come alive in theatres. OTT also doesn’t offer much choice in terms of 3D content.
Streams are not the same as movie tickets
With streaming platforms filmmakers have a limited, one-time revenue potential. For a small subscription fee, Netflix or Amazon prime customers can watch whatever they like, any number of times. There is no pay per view.
Filmmakers don’t make money on a specific title but just the subscription revenue. Whereas with the theatrical release, the sky’s the limit when it comes to achieving their income potential. For big budget productions this often seals the deal when it comes to deciding where and when to release their movies. Patience translates into money and success.
In summary, it is fair to say that there are advantages and disadvantages to streaming platforms and filmmakers must decide wisely based on the subject of the film and the revenue potential, whether the film is ideal for theatres or a streaming service.