Post the theatre shutdowns during the pandemic and subsequent OTT revolution, there is a marked change in the audience’s viewing experience. This is reflected in the half-empty theatres and the dire revenue collection for most films. In the first half of 2023, out of the 80-odd films that have been released in Kerala, only Romancham and 2018 managed to have a successful stint at theatres. Against this backdrop, the decision to release the successfully running 2018 on SonyLIV before the agreed upon 42-day interval for OTT release has sparked protests, leading to the strike of theatre owners.
According to an Indian Express report, the Film Exhibitors United Organisation of Kerala (FEUOK), representing theatre owners, have said this strike is a warning and have issued a 20-day ultimatum to address their concerns. They have asked producers to adhere to the time interval between theatre release and OTT premiere, breaking which would invite stringent repercussions including banning. The pre-booked tickets on the strike days have been refunded.
Commenting on the protest, 2018’s director Jude Anthany Joseph wrote on Facebook: “I only have respect for theatre owners’ protest. I follow the practice of making sure that my producers are safe (financially) before the release of my film. That’s why when SonyLIV approached with a deal, it was seen as a blessing from god. This was not done on purpose. This is part of the business. I thank Sony Liv for trusting our film before the release, and I thank all for loving our film. The theatre owners and the audiences, you are the real heroes❤️😍.”