Multiplexes and single screens have always taken pride in hosting film premieres — be it from celebrity-studded red carpet openings or a packed first-day first show. Box office collection has always been determined by the response a film garners on its first day.
But what comes as a potential threat to multiplexes and single screens is the 'Jio First Day First Show', which Reliance Industry Chairman Mukesh Ambani’s announced at the company’s annual general meeting.
This premium offering is part of Reliance’s Jio Giga Fiber, which will be launched from September 5.
Expected to be launched in mid-2020, the ‘Jio First Day First Show’ will allow premium customers to watch movies from their living rooms on the day of release.
Ambani said at the meeting, "For the first time in India, we are introducing a disruptive concept for watching new movies. Premium Jio Fiber customers will be able to watch movies in their living rooms, the same day these movies are released in theatres.”
After the announcement, film industry experts raised concerns over the future of multiplexes and single-screen cinema as Jio's offering poses a serious threat to their business model.
While experts and analysts questioned the fate of multiplexes, leading exhibitors and distributors said the experience of watching a film in theatres will be the main distinguisher.
A leading distributor told BestMediaInfo.com that not just the experience, but Reliance Jio will also have to look into logistics before releasing a movie first on digital. The distributor questioned the profitability of this strategy as Reliance will have to pay a huge sum to acquire digital rights for films produced by other studios and production houses.
Since Reliance has Jio Studios films, it is possible the company might focus on its own production for the ‘Jio First Day First Show’ offering.
Debashish Dey, Distribution Head of Aum Moviez, also said Reliance will have to pay a hefty sum to acquire the rights unless they themselves are the producers. “The multiplexes will still have an audience who will definitely frequent the cinema theatres because I believe watching a film is a religion, it is an experience in itself. People from all castes and religions come together and watch a film, so it is a different experience altogether. So, I don't think the Reliance offering will create any hindrance for exhibitors,” he said.
Leading multiplex chains such as PVR, Inox Leisure and Carnival Cinemas also emphasised that the experience offered by a theatre to its audience is something that can't be replicated.
In a statement, PVR said theatrical and at-home movie viewing are two completely different experiences.
Inox Leisure said 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 that can never be matched by watching movies on television screens at home. “We strongly believe 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,” they said.
PV Sunil, Managing Director, Carnival Cinemas, said they believe movie entertainment in India has become an article of necessity than a luxury. “Theatres have got more relevance as a family social meeting point than just being a movie exhibition centre and the relevance from that point of view will never diminish. We believe that the experience of watching a movie with a cross-section of the population in a theatre along with their loud reactions takes it to a different tangent as compared to watching it in the solitude of your drawing room. Our purpose is to take people outside their homes and provide them with a complete package of movies, good food, fun for children and ultimately a great time for family bonding,” he said.
Inox Leisure also highlighted the legalities behind the exclusive film premieres, stating that producers, distributors and multiplex owners in India have mutually agreed to an exclusive theatrical window of eight weeks between the theatrical release of a movie on any other platform.
While ‘Jio First Day First Show’ might not succeed in offering the surround sound Dolby experience, they might look into a simulcast of the film on digital and theatres to have the best of both worlds.
Asked about the simulcast strategy, Dey said if the simulcast strategy takes place, it will have a severe impact on single screens as opposed to multiplexes as they have several screens featuring different films but single screens depend on only one movie.
However, Inox said film producers 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: the aforementioned eight-week period.
PVR also said that for decades, the 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 and the date of release on all other platforms, i.e. DVD, DTH, TV, OTT, etc,” they said.