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Viacom18 readies films push


Encouraged by the successes of OMG 2, Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahaani and Drishyam 2, Viacom18 Studios, the film production and distribution arm of Viacom18 Media Pvt. Ltd, aims to achieve 1,000 crore in annual revenue from various projects, spanning theatrical, satellite, and digital platforms, Ajit Andhare, chief operating officer, Viacom18 Studios said.

The studio will focus on both high-budget and mid-scale productions for theatrical releases. while venturing into original web content through its separate arm, Tipping Point. Andhare said the studio will maintain its independence, even as sister concern, Jio Studios, launches its own projects.

“The approach central to the way the studio has worked for 13 years is to put the script and story first, find the unique cinematic experience or differentiation you’re offering, and then put that package out in the market. However, the launch of OTTs post-covid, there is some pressure on the mid-segment as theatrical experience became far more important,” he said.

However, creating a mass-market show is not the only way to go about it, and the box office success of recent launches such as OMG 2, Gadar 2 and Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahaani is proof of it, he said.

The company is prepping an action film, Fighter, starring Hrithik Roshan and Deepika Padukone, that is slated for January release. A few mid-scale films are also in the works, such as Dhak Dhak, featuring Ratna Pathak Shah, Fatima Sana Shaikh, Dia Mirza, and others, and Paresh Rawal-starrer Shastry Virudh Shastry. The studio is also working on sequels of older hits like Drishyam, Pyaar Ka Punchnama and Special 26.

While Viacom18’s video streaming platform JioCinema plans to expand, the studio may partner with rival networks for the sale of satellite and digital rights of the movies it produces.

Viacom18’s last big-ticket release before covid was period drama Padmaavat in 2018. A bunch of small and mid-budget movies followed but with varying degrees of success. After the pandemic-led disruptions, the studio took a while before returning with a slate of films in partnership with Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions last year. Since then, it released Gehraiyaan and Govinda Naam Mera (both streamed directly on digital platforms) besides Jug Jugg Jeeyo and Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahaani. In the interim, Laal Singh Chaddha, the remake of Hollywood classic Forrest Gump, starring Aamir Khan, did not do well for the studio.

Data accessed by financial intelligence firm Tofler showed Viacom18 Studios’ operating revenue declined to 500 crore in FY22. Even in 2018, when Padmaavat made close to 300 crore in collections, its annual revenues would have been in the range of 400-500 crore, said trade experts.

An analyst said the Viacom18 slate, including Hindi and Hollywood films distributed in India, such as Mission: Impossible instalment, should bode well for the studio with the big-screen experience luring people back to cinemas. However, small movies may not be able to draw the crowds to theatres. “Plus, the issue with working with Bollywood studios such as Dharma is that a foreign studio may not be able to exercise much creative control,” the analyst said, requesting anonymity.

However, Viacom18 Studios does not follow a volume-driven approach. “Films must start from zero and then must depend on audience response. So, for consumption you must meet quality and your assets have to create that type of demand. So, chasing volumes may result in output that might not stack up,” Andhare said.

He sees no gap but a certain level of quality maintained in the work the company has put out. That said, scale is limited unless you combine forces with other filmmakers, he added, referring to partnerships such as with Dharma, a trend that he referred to as the way forward which could take the form of co-productions or other tactical partnerships.

Moreover, the company’s OTT content production arm Tipping Point is in the process of developing upcoming seasons of shows such as Jamtara- Sabka Number Ayega and She (both on Netflix) and Kaalkoot on JioCinema. Another JioCinema original called Gaanth is awaiting its turn to stream soon. “The idea is to bring film scale entertainment to web series. The making DNA is what we’ve developed on the film side and we operate on the premium end of the segment,” Andhare said.

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Updated: 11 Sep 2023, 12:16 AM IST



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