You are a filmmaker and you have just completed your first film. Now it’s time to take it to the world. But you are caught in doubt. Should you release your film online? Or should you just sell it to an OTT for streaming? Which gets you more mileage and money? Ever since online release of films have been made possible by virtual multiplexes, this seems raging debate for independent filmmakers and producers.
The entertainment industry is changing. Covid-19 and the worldwide lockdown seems to have been a catalyst in this change. Ever since the pandemic hit the world, forcing people to stay indoors, streaming services has seen a large boom in their growing services. Studies show that more and more people now turn towards online streaming sites and apps for entertainment. In India the trend seemed to have been going high for service providers who were providing content for free, but post Covid all that is changing.
It‘s been three months since the cinema halls have shut down. We, single screen owners were at the wrong end of things for years, ever since multiplex changing had taken over our business, but this Covid lockdown seems to have ended all hopes for a revival for us. We don’t even know when we will reopen. And that makes a very difficult situation for our business. ~Single Screen Owner, Kolkata
As the multiplexes and single screens remain closed for the third month in a row and a probable reopening seems distant, hall owners fear that it might not be a favourable circmstance when theatres reopen. Keeping social distancing in mind the probability is high that viewers may not flock the screens like they used to. Also if Theatres are forced to sell less number of seats due to social distancing measures in place, the prices of tickets will go up and that may not be a good option for cine lovers.
Amidst all these cons enters the two star players of the online entertainment industry. The popular OTT streaming platforms and the new sensation of virtual multiplexes. As a Filmmakers in the current scenario, these seem to be the only two avenues available to you. But there’s a raging debate. Should you Release your film online? Or should you just sell it to an OTT.
Selling your film to an OTT
Let’s start with the OTT spectrum. Game of Thrones changed the way people viewed OTT forever. Getting your film on OTT is a sure huge feat and once there you can rest with a fat wad of cash in your pocket and a hope for getting your next film. But wait there’s much more that you have given up. Your entire exclusive rights. For the next few years, depending on your contract or forever if that‘s your contract, you can not do anything with your film publicly. That includes, special screenings, festival screenings or for that matter any thing that you can think of. The reason is simple. You have sold off your rights. OTT is designed for mobile entertainment, entertainment on the go. Studies show that the majority of OTT viewers watch their content on mobile devices. That means they are never going to get the large screen experience that you had designed your film for. Also, the money that OTT pays you does not always cover your entire production cost. There are a few upsides like the film will get a huge viewer base and you will get noted, but in reality there’s much debate on that too. OTT’s usually have a huge library and often contents just get lost in them. The chances that you film will be a global phenomenon depends totally on how well you have spent on popularising that content and promoting that content for your viewers to actually go and watch that content. To cut a long story short, OTT definitely is a good option but in the whole process you loose the ownership to your film. You may get a nice wad of cash doled out but the film is not your’s anymore (Until your contract ends)
Releasing your film on a Virtual Multiplex like Silverscreen
Virtual multiplexes are a new thing. Online cinema halls like Silverscreen have been very recent in their birth but have attracted huge audience and films in a short span of time. Releasing your film on the virtual multiplexes does have a lot of perks and lot of hard work too. The very first thing that strikes you is that it’s actually a release. The viewers come to watch your film because they genuinely want to watch your film and not out of loyalty or love for any app or website. It’s you, not the service. They buy a single viewing ticket like they would in a Silverscreen in the real world and watch the content. There’s no monthly sign ups or annual fees like OTT. The magic is that you are the sole deciding factor for your film and you retain your rights. So while you are making cash from your release, you retain all the rights of your film unlike an OTT. You decide what the customer pays for the ticket and you decide when you wish to release it (of course depending on availability) Films on the Silverscreen runs for a typical seven day release window. That means if the film performs well it gets a rerun on the second week and if it does not fare well then it’s a bye bye. Another major aspect is that these online multiplexes have been designed to encourage viewers to watch he films on a large screen, while also providing a seamless experience on smaller mobile devices. This means the multiplex prompts and encourages a big screen viewing habit but incase a viewer does not have access to big screens then they can enjoy the film on a small screen while fully understanding that they are making a compromise and that they have a choice to go big, if they wish to. The best part is probably that even after an online release you can sell your film to an OTT as you still hold all the rights and technically the OTT should not have a problem.
While OTT’s are best suited for series and reruns, when it comes to films having your own release online is definitely what a filmmaker should look at. The freedom to retain the ownership of your content and not loose out in the haze of a huge content library, while having a full scope to recover your entire production amount is a huge boon for Filmmakers. Plus getting your film released online worldwide without having to pay the required Herculean fees and hassles you would have to if it was an on ground release makes it a choice par excellence. Till now this wasn’t possible. But now it is.
The fact remains that nothing can ever occupy the special place a release has on a Filmmakers heart and mind. Releasing your film gives a validation that selling it out does not always offer. With newer concepts and technology coming up on the internet every day, this is certainly a new way to look at film releases that will benefit Filmmakers and viewers worldwide.