How Will Jio’s First-Day-First-Show Service Affect Cinemas? We Ask Filmmakers And Producers

The service, which is expected to launch mid 2020, will allow users of the premium broadband service Jio Fiber to watch movies at home on the same day they hit theatres
How Will Jio’s First-Day-First-Show Service Affect Cinemas? We Ask Filmmakers And Producers
Imagine watching Mission Mangal or Batla House from the comfort of your own home on the same day that the films release in theatres. This might be a possibility next year. Speaking at the company's AGM on Monday, Reliance Industries Limited chairman Mukesh Ambani announced First Day First Show, a unique service for users of the premium broadband service Jio Fiber. Mr. Ambani said: "For the first time in India, we are introducing a disruptive concept for watching new movies. We call this Jio first-day-first-show. We plan to launch this service in the middle of 2020." There are no further details available right now on the service. While the platform is likely to be beneficial for consumers, it's bound to pose a threat to exhibitors across the country and impact opening-day box office numbers. In a statement released soon after the announcement, PVR said that both theatrical and at-home viewing experiences each have their own place and must co-exist. Here are first responses from artists and producers in Bollywood:

Ritesh Sidhwani, co-founder, Excel Entertainment

I personally believe that when a film is planned for a big screen experience in cinemas we need to have holdback windows in place for all other platforms where we plan on showcasing the film post its theatrical window. We don't allow our satellite or digital partner to advertise that the film will be available in their platform while the film is playing in theatres . I want to encourage people to come to theatres and we are hugely under-screened compared to most countries. Look at China – everyone said digital will take over but today you have local films that do one billion dollars in China alone. Yes, we will also make films that go directly to digital platforms but these need to be marketed accordingly. I think multiplex owners have a very strong lobby that demands that theatrical releases not come on a platform for at least eight weeks. So this will present a challenge. I would like to see both flourish and co-exist!

Anurag Kashyap, filmmaker

It's a great idea for independent movies. I don't know about big-budget star cast films. I knew Kamal Haasan was trying to do that years ago with his film and met with a lot of protests from exhibitors. But there are some films I would prefer watching in cinemas.

A leading producer who requested not to be identified

We have an eight-week window between theatrical release and streaming on a digital platform. Frankly, it's the shortest window anywhere in the world. The other end of the spectrum is France which has a three-year window. Jio has definitely thrown a cat among the pigeons to say they are not accepting the eight-week window. To announce first-day-first-show at the AGM means that they have the strategy in place to roll this out.

This is going to be a tough one. Unless you are just talking about made-for-digital movies, which Netflix is already doing. I hear that Amazon is also exploring it. But to have a film show in theaters and beamed into homes on the same day is tricky. There is an opportunity for producers to maximize the revenue. It will add to the revenue that a film can garner. Filmmakers can also definitely benefit. For a creative person, the aim is to get as many eyeballs as quickly as possible and this would enable that. Of course, the whole romance of theater is gone. But it's not bad for a creative person.

But I don't see how any exhibitor will agree to this. One solution could be geo-blocking. India is a severely under-screened market. So you could propose to make the film available for streaming in a place like Latur where you don't have screens, but not in Mumbai where you do. That way, you could find new audiences for the film in places where there are no theatres. And pay a share of the pay-per-view revenue to cinemas. This is the best half-way solution.

How will Jio implement the first-day-first-show plan since they don't own any cinemas and none of the existing chains will be willing to work with this arrangement? Unless of course they buy a theatre chain, which is entirely possible. It's going to be very interesting to see how this plays out.

Amit Masurkar, filmmaker

It seems like a good idea for filmmakers to reach out to a much larger audience. But it won't have the same romance of watching films in a cinema hall.

Official statement by PVR

PVR Ltd. (PVR) has learnt from various media reports that one of India's telecom enterprises, for its premium fiber customers, will make movies available at home the same day these movies are released in theatres. As on date, the publicly available information regarding the proposed service is limited; however, given the wide coverage in various media reports, we would like to place on record our observations.

Cinema exhibition remains the largest revenue contributor for the Filmed entertainment segment.  As per FICCI report on India's media and entertainment sector, March 2019, out of the total Filmed entertainment revenues of INR 174.5bn in 2018, theatrical box office (domestic & overseas) contribution was ~75%. Given India' low screen density and the growth potential it offers, we expect Cinema exhibition to continue expanding its foot print in India for the next multiple years, which will continue growing it's contribution to the overall revenue of the Filmed entertainment. It's appropriate to point out that the year 2018 was a landmark year for global cinema industry with US / Canada box office and China box office at record highs of US$ 11.9bn and US$ 7.9bn, respectively.

For decades, theatrical release window has been a valuable model for exhibitors and producers alike. In India and globally, producers have respected the release windows and kept a sacrosanct gap between the theatrical release date & the date of release on all other platforms, i.e. DVD, DTH, TV, OTT etc. Cinemas continue bringing people together to share a communal experience, this unreplaceable element which is at the core of theatrical experience, continues to deliver a robust box office performance not just in growing market such as India but also in the more matured markets such as USA, China, Europe etc. where Cinemas have regularly competed with many similar initiatives, e.g. Netflix Original Movies etc.

Theatrical and at-home are two completely different experiences and each has their own places. Both these experiences have co-existed and prospered for decades and will continue to so in future.  We are extremely buoyant about cinema exhibition's growth prospects and remain committed to expand PVR's reach in cities & towns across the country, while delivering an unmatched movie going experience to the Indian consumers.

Official statement by INOX

We note from various media reports, that one of India's largest telecom enterprises, have announced that they intend to launch, by mid-2020, a service that would include, inter alia, making available movies for viewing at home, on the same day these movies are released in cinema theatres. While it is difficult to react based on the insufficient details available, given the wide coverage given to this announcement, and some queries we have received on the subject, we thought it would be appropriate to share our initial thoughts on the subject immediately. A more comprehensive reaction would perhaps require further details of the service being proposed.

The theatrical exhibition industry, led primarily by the multiplex industry, has made significant investments in world class cinema theatres, by bringing in state of the art technology, luxurious ambience, bespoke comfort and unmatched service, ultimately curating an experience which can never be matched by watching movies on television screens at home. We strongly believe that Indian movie watchers' love for cinema on giant screens is deep rooted and unshakeable, and this has kept, and will continue to keep, the industry alive and thriving for the past several decades, and for several decades to come.

We would also like to point out that producers, distributors and multiplex owners in India have mutually agreed to an exclusive theatrical window of 8 weeks, between the theatrical release of a movie, and release on any other platform. This exclusive theatrical window is a model that is followed internationally, in order to ensure the robust financial viability of all the segments of the sector, and has been replicated in India.

The producer of the film is the owner of the creative content and is therefore entitled to choose the platform for distribution and consumption of his content. However, in view of this mutually agreed exclusive theatrical window, he 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.

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