Mollywood suffers as OTT platforms tighten grip over movie releases

Our Correspondent 

2 min read
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Crisis in Malayalam cinema has heightened since the industry began making movies solely for over the top (OTT) platforms. With the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, our film industry fell into the grip of OTT platforms seeking better profits.

Less expense, high profits

The idea of filming for OTT appeared in the Malayalam film industry after several films went into crisis during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns. Filmmakers were literally left awestruck to see Fahadh Faasil starrer, ‘C U Soon’, which was produced at an expense of less than Rs 1 crore, sold to Amazon for around Rs 8 crores.

Soon after, an array of directors and producers were trying hard to learn the art of making OTT movies using a single room and limited expenses. This paved the way for premier shows on OTT platforms. Movies such as ‘Drishyam 2’ and ‘Keshu Ee Veedinte Nadhan’, which were released on OTT for high profits, opened the way for an alternative.

With this, producers fell into the magical trap of making movies for Rs 2 or 3 crores and selling them on OTT for Rs 7 or 8 crores. Even after the pandemic, our producers signed contracts with OTT platforms before releasing the movies in theatres.

This trading formula ensures 'table profit', wherein producers can earn enough money to cover their expenses through OTT sales, instead of waiting for the film to hit the theatres.

However, things changed for the worse pretty quickly with OTT platforms ending premier shows. They began to opt out of buying movies without star values. With this, the sale of around 50 Malayalam movies fell into crisis.

Now, OTT platforms say they will buy films only after theatre releases. The fact that several films, bought for high prices by OTT platforms, turned out to be major flops in theatres also forced them to think otherwise.

OTT release, pirated copies

OTT thrives on subscriptions and piracy threatens widening its consumer base. Quality pirate copies reach viewers soon after the OTT release.

With new movies being available on OTT and pirated sites within a month of their release, many people are losing interest in going to theatres. For instance, if a four-member family decides to go to a movie, they will have to spend around Rs 1,500 for tickets and food. Instead, they prefer an annual OTT subscription for the same price.

"Viewers should arrive at a point where they feel sorry for not having watched a good movie in the theatre. But, in the current scenario, the task is not easy,” opines a producer.

At least Rs 1 crore is required to release a movie, inclusive of social media promotion. That is, a film with a production cost of Rs 5 crores will cost Rs 6 crores when it hits the theatres. And if it flops in theatres, then OTT platforms will not purchase the movie, adding to the loss.

Tamil dialogues, Bengali songs

“Initially, they tried to make excessive profits through OTT. Now waiting at their mercy,” says a director about the current state of Malayalam cinema.

OTT platforms have subscribers in all languages. Hence, these platforms look for content to satisfy their interests. Hence, Malayalam filmmakers are often forced to make movie plots with pan-Indian characteristics. That is how Tamil, Hindi speaking characters and Bengali songs find their space in Malayalam movies.

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