Eid has been re-named “Salman Khan’s Eid” given how over the past few years Khan has used the Eid Holiday to release his tentpole films — Dabanng (2010), Bodyguard (2011), Ek Tha Tiger (2012), Kick (2014), Bajrangi Bhaijaan (2015), Sultan (2016), Tubelight (2017), Race 3 (2018), and Bharat (2019).
The COVID-19 pandemic pushed all the big releases last year to the wayside. Rohit Shetty’s Sooryavanshi was on the verge of release till the lockdown was announced; it has since been delayed with dates being moved around. Shetty finished shooting Cirkus in the interim. Kabir Khan’s 83 too is awaiting a similar fate.
The first two months of 2021 showed some hope vis-a-vis theatrical openings. Salman Khan announced that Radhe would be the big-ticket theatrical release of this Eid. Directed by Prabhu Deva, the film also stars Disha Patani, Jackie Shroff, Randeep Hooda, and Megha Akash.
— Salman Khan (@BeingSalmanKhan) January 19, 2021
But the second wave of the pandemic that has hit harder has caused makers to step back on their premature announcements. However, the makers of Radhe have stepped up — the film will release on its original date announced, May 13th, simultaneously in theaters and on ZEE5. It will be available for all annual premium subscribers of Zee5. Additionally, it will be ZEE’s pay per view service, ZEEPlex. (The price hasn’t been announced, though it usually ranged from 99-149 Rupees)
The ZEEPlex Model
ZEEPlex, housed under the ZEE5 platform, is a separate pay-per-view model, launched in October last year to release Khaali Peeli, a Hindi masala film starring Ishaan Khatter, Ananya Panday and Jaideep Ahlawat and Ka Pae Ranasingam, a Tamil political drama starring Vijay Sethupathi and Aishwarya Rajesh. Khaali Peeli also released in 6 drive-in theaters which were reportedly house-full over the weekend of its release, priced at Rs 999 per car. But in the US where it released it apparently made only $363 from 11 screens, amounting to around Rs 25000. No viewership numbers have been published from ZEEPlex.
Later, in January 2021 ZEEPlex released The Power, starring Vidyut Jammwal, and in February they released Ninnila Ninnila, the Telugu romantic-comedy starring Ashok Selvan, Ritu Varma, and Nithya Menen. ZeePlex also premiered the American psychological thriller Unhinged, and the British drama Retaliation.
ZeePlex’s decision came on the heels of Disney+’s decision to forgo theatrical and release Mulan directly on their platform for an additional 30$. According to Screen Rant, Mulan made $33.5 million in its opening weekend alone, was seen in around 1.12 million homes in the US, and sharply increased Disney+ downloads by over 68 percent.
A Simultaneous OTT And Theatrical Release
Last year when Warner Bros. announced its plans to simultaneously release films in theatres and on HBO Max, its OTT platform at no extra cost to the subscriber — Matrix 4, Dune and Suicide Squad — there was an outcry from among the film community including Christopher Nolan who noted, “In 2021, they’ve got some of the top filmmakers in the world, they’ve got some of the biggest stars in the world who worked for years in some cases on these projects very close to their hearts that are meant to be big-screen experiences.”
Wonder Woman 1984 was the first film to attempt this last Christmas, releasing both in theaters in America while also being made available to stream digitally on HBO Max. According to Nielsen, the film totaled 2.25 billion minutes spent by HBO Max users over its first three days of release, “equivalent to about 14.9 million complete plays of the 151-minute movie”. This also caused an uptick in subscriptions to HBO Max — Screen Engine reported that 23% of viewers had subscribed to HBO Max in order to watch the film. With a budget of $200 million, however, it only made a collection of around $130 million.
Interestingly in India the opposite was happening. Telugu film V, which premiered on Amazon Prime Video in September 2020 and Khaali Peeli, both released theatrically in January 2021, while pirated versions of OTT releases such as Laxmii and Coolie No.1 have already been playing in small-town theatres. Not much if known about the collection here.
Radhe: India’sMost Wanted Bhai will release in theatres worldwide per COVID protocol issued by the government and on ZEEPlex, also available on all leading DTH operators — Dish, D2H, Tata Sky and Airtel Digital TV — along with annual premium subscribers of Zee5.
Radhe’s international theatrical release is currently targeting 40 countries across the Middle East, North America, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and Europe. It will also be the first Bollywood film to release theatrically in the UK since the lockdown last year.