Then, there’s a chance that none of this is good enough. China reopened and then re-shuttered 600 movie theatres in late March over fears of a potential second wave of coronavirus infections.

But cinema owners in India are still not willing to throw in the towel.

Light at the end of the tunnel?

The sudden loss of business has brought some cinema hall owners close to bankruptcy.

Cinema owners have also been struggling to convince producers to stall releases instead of taking the OTT route. “We were hoping that the producers would accede to our request to hold back their film’s release till cinemas reopen,” said Kamal Gianchandani, CEO of one of India’s leading multiplex chains, PVR. “That said, this is not the first time films are being premiered on streaming platforms. Cinema exhibition has regularly faced competition from new emerging distribution platforms.”

But despite all odds, there’s hope that when good content starts hitting the big screens and the pandemic effect reduces, there will be pent-up demand, and “larger audiences than ever” will come back to the theatres, said Rajeev Sharma, CEO of theatre chain NY Cinemas. “We always perceive cinema and cricket to be kind of religions in India,” he added.

Even the higher ticket pricing may not hold back cine-goers, some believe. “You’ve always paid for the experience and exclusivity; now you’ll just pay more for the safety as well,” said Sameer Nair, CEO of digital media studio Applause Entertainment.

But there is no denying that the Covid-19 lockdown has given an edge to online streaming. For instance, ALTBalaji has witnessed a 60% increase in subscriptions with an average of 17,000 subscriptions added per day since March-end, CEO Pantvaidya said.

Now, with the next releases of some of Bollywood’s biggest stars such as Amitabh Bachchan, Ayushmann Khurrana, and Vidya Balan, set to hit Amazon’s Prime Videos directly, it’s clear that streaming platforms have earned street cred of their own.

“Coronavirus has sent a big signal to the industry that it’s not necessary that every movie has to be (a) big blockbuster at the cinemas. Often, direct to OTT may be much more economically viable,” said Karan Bedi, CEO of OTT service MXPlayer.

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