Aelay, the Tamil film that was set to have a theatrical release on Friday, will now have a worldwide television premiere on Star Vijay on February 28, the makers of the film announced in a press release on Thursday.
While the statement did not reveal why the film’s makers backed out from their earlier decision, a statement issued by the Tamil Film Active Producers Association on Wednesday supported the film’s makers. The statement said that despite the producers opting for a theatrical release, cinema hall owners objected to the film releasing on a streaming platform soon after its theatrical release.
The gradually decreasing window between theatrical release and its debut on an OTT platform has become a bone of contention between filmmakers and theatre owners.
“In this situation, the producers of Aelay, which is to release on 12th, who did not selfishly think about themselves and also wanted the theatres to prosper, decided to release their film on which they had spent crores making. However, the theatre owners, who ignored our request for a discussion, selfishly demanded the producers to write a letter stating that the film will not be released on OTT platforms for 30 days and pressured that they will not release the film otherwise,” the statement said.
It also said that films are made for “people’s happiness” and not to become “a prey to the theatres”.
What are theatre associations saying?
Speaking to Silverscreen India, members of theatre associations claimed that makers of Aelay may not have been able to secure enough screens in theatres since quite a few films are releasing on Friday on the occasion of Valentine’s Day.
Tiruppur Subramaniam, president of the Tamil Nadu Theatres and Multiplexes Owners Association, said, “This week, around four films are releasing, so the availability of theatres will be very low. They would have got only a few theatres, and that is why they may have opted for a TV premiere. Apart from Aelay, there are about four Tamil films that are releasing in theatres today (February 12) and hence they may have not gotten the screens to release.”
“However, we don’t know if there are any reasons to skip a theatrical release. Only the production house would know,” he added.
Other films that are releasing are Tamil anthology film Kutty Story, Care of Kaadhal (remake of Telugu film C/o Kancharapalem), comedian Santhanam’s Parris Jeyaraj, and actor Dinesh’s Naanum Single Dhaan.
Speaking to Silverscreen India, producer Sashikanth of Y Not Studios said, “I don’t want to get into the specifics, and we have already issued a clear statement saying that the situation is not conducive and hence we have looked at an alternative.”
Asked if the decision to skip the theatrical release was due to the OTT premiere window or non-availability of theatres, he said, “Isn’t it quite obvious? The theatre federation has clearly stipulated that, isn’t it? They have stipulated that the window should be four weeks. Now they say that the theatres are not available?”
Calling it a “silly debate” since they announced the film’s release date on January 20, Sashikanth said, “There is no point in discussing this. It is very obvious. We are a reputed production house and we have never gone on OTT or digital premiere. It is very clear that they are doing this on specific intent. I would not want to comment because it is very self-explanatory. This is clearly because of development on grounds.”
“There were 113 screens on Friday that my office said were available last Friday. We are also distributors. Less I speak about this is better,” he said.
Are theatres not available due to more films?
Asked if too many films releasing simultaneously had reduced screenings, Ruban of GK Cinemas in Chennai said: “It is the production’s choice. It is not because theatres were unavailable. For a film like Aelay, it is intended for multiplexes, so screens would have been available. It is their choice of release, we cannot comment on that. But as a theatre owner, we give equal importance to all the films to allocate the screenings.”
What about other films?
Asked about the gap between a theatrical release and its OTT premier, some producers said a 30-day period is the latest agreed-upon time period.
Ashwin Kumar, executive producer at Vels Film International that is producing Kutty Story, said, “We have given a letter for releasing it on an OTT platform after 30 days. That is what the theatre owners requested it and we said okay for it. We are in talks with Amazon Prime Video and Hotstar.”
IB Karthikeyan of Big Print Pictures, that is producing Care of Kaadhal, said, “We will be releasing the film after 30 days. We have so far given a verbal statement regarding the same to our distributors. The film will release on Netflix and the agreement is over. After the theatrical run, we will announce it officially. It may come after 45-60 days and Netflix will plan about it.”
Inputs from Ramya Ashok Kumar.