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Producers Guild of India defends filmmakers’ decision to opt for digital release

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Expressing their displeasure over the statements issued by few multiplex chains against the digital release of films, Producers Guild of India (PGI) on Friday said, it is time for the entire industry to come together and support each other, amid the nationwide lockdown, which has resulted in shutting of theatres.

In an apparent reference to the decision of the makers of “Gulabo Sitabo” to release the film on a streaming platform, multiplex INOX on Thursday had expressed its “extreme displeasure and disappointment” over the move.

Kamal Gianchandani of PVR Pictures also said they were expecting the producers to hold their films for theatrical release.

This is a time for the entire film industry to come together with empathy and support for the difficult predicament that each of our constituents finds themselves in – from producers, distributors, exhibitors, daily wage earners and technicians, to the thousands of people whose lives and livelihoods are in some way dependent on our industry, PGI said in a statement.

The Guild said it is disappointing to see abrasive and unconstructive messaging from some of their colleagues in the exhibition sector.

Statements that call for retributive measures’ against producers who decide to take their movies direct to OTT platforms -especially at a time when cinemas are unfortunately closed for the foreseeable future – do not lend themselves to a constructive or collaborative dialogue on the way forward for the industry.

The Guild said when it comes to financial losses, the situation of the producers is no different from exhibitors.

Elaborate and expensive sets erected for under-production films have had to be taken down due to no date in sight for shoots to resume, with the sunk cost of the set and studio rentals to be borne completely by producers – as insurers refuse to cover the cost.

Shoot schedules have had to be abruptly cancelled due to the lockdown, with huge cancellation charges being borne completely by the producer – again with no support from insurers.

The Guild said cinemas may be one of the last sectors of the service likely to be given permission to re-open and even if theatres in India start functioning, there is no guarantee that the overseas theatrical market, which is a key component of the economics of Hindi films, will resume.

Producers of Hindi movies will have to wait for cinemas across the entire country to re-open, as the economics of the business require an all India release. For cinemas to be open across the entire country, it is clear we are sometime away.

“Even if it has in some countries, it might not have in others, hence leading to additional loss of revenue for a producer.

The Guild said by the time cinemas will start functioning, there will be a huge backlog of films, which will lead to sub-optimal showcasing of small and mid-budget films.

One because of the social distancing norms that will be both mandated and necessary for public safety. Secondly, because of the inevitable concern that cinema-goers will have about venturing back into public spaces.

In addition to this, there will be a huge backlog of releases, and the smaller and medium scale films especially will suffer from sub-optimal showcasing in addition to all the concerns above.

The Guild said given these factors, it is only natural that producers will seek out all avenues available to recover their investment and to stay in business.

However, it emphasised that it is unequivocally and passionately supportive of the theatrical release of films.

A theatrical release will always be the preference for movies that were conceptualised as cinematic experiences. But these are unprecedented times for all the reasons mentioned above, and it is imperative to see things in that context.

For producers to continue to keep producing’ the movies that light up our cinema screens, they need to continue to be in business in the first place, the statement read.

The Guild said it would like to work collaboratively with the exhibition sector to bring the audiences back to theatres.

The production fraternity would like to work collaboratively with the exhibition sector to ensure that once cinemas do re-open, we do all we can to bring audiences back in large numbers to experience our movies in the way they were always meant to be enjoyed – at the theatres.

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