Bollywood premieres find new Amazon Prime home

Bollywood premieres find new Amazon Prime home

Amazon Prime Video, Amazon's streaming service, will screen several new Indian films originally meant for theatrical release, sparking protests from cinema owners as the novel coronavirus outbreak upends Bollywood.

India has been under a strict lockdown since March 25 to battle the virus, leaving about 9,500 theatres shut and depriving Bollywood of box-office revenue.

So, producers of seven films, including two Bollywood movies starring A-listers, such as Amitabh Bachchan and Vidya Balan, will stream the movies directly on Amazon Prime Video following a deal, the company said in a recent statement.

Theatres lose out

Gulabo Sitabo?, a family comedy with Bachchan and Ayushmann Khurrana, which was set for release in April, will now stream directly on Amazon Prime Video in June, as will Shakuntala Devi?, a biopic of the Indian mathematician of the same name.

Two of India's biggest cinema chains, Inox and PVR, who were meant to screen Gulabo Sitabo?, bemoaned the decision.

"INOX will be constrained to examine its options, and reserves all rights, including taking retributive measures, in dealing with such fair-weather friends," Inox said in a statement.

The producers' guild said the comments from Inox were "abrasive and unconstructive".

The other five films in the Amazon deal are productions from the prolific, southern-language film industry.

Broader trend

Streaming platforms like Amazon and Netflix have in the past signed deals with Indian studios for digital rights, but mainstream releases have always prioritised theatrical revenues first.
Analysts say the Amazon deal in India is likely the beginning of a broader trend, as lingering fears of coronavirus infection and lower discretionary spending keep people away from multiplexes and single-screen cinemas.
"There will be a reset in the way that producers and studios think about their portfolios," said Vijay Subramaniam, director and head, Content, Amazon Prime Video, India.
Subramaniam said Amazon, which competes in India with Netflix and Disney's Hotstar, did not see acquisition costs going up for the streaming platform.
Bollywood is a huge draw for burgeoning online audiences around the world, who are spending more time watching content online than ever before.
by Shilpa Jamkhandikar
(Reuters)
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