Actor Akshay Kumar on Monday said theatres have the "first birth right" over movies and though he's excited his upcoming "Laxmmi Bomb" will stream digitally, he feels sad it couldn't release on the big screen.
The horror-comedy is set to stream on Disney+Hotstar, bypassing a theatrical release as screens remain closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The streamer announced its slate of seven film which will have a direct-to-digital release, including Ajay Devgn's "Bhuj: The Pride of India", Abhishek Bachchan starrer "The Big Bull", and "Sadak 2", featuring Alia Bhatt.
In a virtual press conference, Akshay said OTT release was the only wise option in the current scenario.
"To be honest, today I am excited for this platform. But yes, I'll say that I am also sad for theatres. After all, movies are theatres first birth right. But in the current situation, everyone's safety is of utmost priority.
"Today with theatres being shut and people watching movies on OTT platforms, if I can make my fans happy by releasing film on Disney+Hotstar—which is a big platform with a massive reach—then I am glad," Akshay told reporters.
"Laxmmi Bomb" would be the actor's first digital release in a career of nearly three decades.
His "Sooryavanshi" co-star and longtime friend, Devgn, said he was equally thrilled to see his patriotic drama "Bhuj: The Pride of India" release on the platform.
"First thing that you want when you make a film is that more and more people get to watch it. The base of Disney+Hotstar is so huge that when 'Bhuj' will come every person will try to watch the film, besides the fact that the film should be good. We have tried to make a good film," the actor told reporters.
Adding to Akshay's comments, Uday Shankar, President, The Walt Disney Company APAC and Chairman, Star and Disney India, said no one but only fans of artistes have the right over films.
"If anyone has birth right over films, it's the film goers and film fans. Fans of the actors, directors who want to see these films and it is our duty to show them films.
"What's going to happen now is that our industry will grow bigger, be more successful, more people will be able to work, we will be able to produce more films. Theatres as well digital screens will survive and grow together with films."
Shankar was of the view that a similar debate arose when TV first started airing films, with many fearing that people would stop going to cinema halls.
"But that didn't happen. Cinema halls grew, more people started watching films, our screens grew, the economics of our films also grew.
"The digital premiere will give industry a new lease of life. It's going to create a completely new world. Theatres will continue to be very important because it's an experience in itself to go there," he added.
As theatres continue to remain shut, release of many films have been affected. 'Gulabo Sitabo' and 'Shakuntala Devi' biopic were among the first films to opt for a digital release on Amazon Prime Video, a move that had irked theatre owners and exhibitors.
Shankar said the digital medium will become an essential outlet for the industry.
"People visit a cinema hall maximum five times a year but watch more number of films on their TV and mobile phones... This will become a huge outlet for our industry to showcase more work. We should see this as big leap for our film industry today," he added.