In recent times, the Indian entertainment industry has witnessed a rising trend known as the token release. This phenomenon involves releasing films in theatres for a minimal period, often with little promotion, before making them available on Over-The-Top (OTT) platforms. In this article, we delve into what token releases are, how they have become prevalent in the Indian cinema, and the potential impact they may have on the industry as a whole.

The new trend of Token Release in Indian Cinema


What is a Token Release?

Token releases are a strategy where films are released in theatres as a mere formality, with the primary intention of subsequently streaming them on OTT platforms. These films are characterised by limited promotions, with teasers or trailers dropping just days before their theatrical release. The term “token release” has gained prominence due to the lack of proper planning and marketing associated with such releases.

The Emergence of Token Releases

Token releases have become increasingly common in the Indian entertainment industry for several reasons:

Safety from Controversies

OTT platforms, often global companies, view token releases as a way to minimise legal hassles and controversies. Releasing films in theatres allows them to get censored, and any potential issues or disputes surrounding the film can be resolved during its theatrical run. This strategy helps OTT platforms mitigate legal troubles and ensures a smoother release on their platforms.

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Audience Reaction Assessment

OTT platforms also employ token releases to gauge audience reactions before committing to a direct digital release. This approach allows them to test the waters and understand how well the film is received by the public, which can influence their marketing and promotion strategies.

Token releases help identify reaction for Indian cinema


Small Productions and Pre-buy Deals

Smaller films often opt for token releases because they already have pre-buy deals with OTT platforms. These agreements lock in certain monetisation aspects of the film. For these films, a token theatrical release provides an opportunity to generate buzz and marketing during the release.

Impact on the Indian Entertainment Industry

Token releases have both positive and negative implications for the Indian entertainment industry:

Marketing and Cost-Sharing

For OTT platforms, token releases help share the marketing costs with the producers, making it a win-win situation. Traditional OTT windows of eight weeks may be reduced to four weeks for smaller releases, which is more cost-effective for platforms.

Rejection Rate and High Competition

The rejection rate for films on both OTT and at the box office has increased, making it challenging for filmmakers to secure deals. Token releases have become a way to minimise financial risks for both producers and platforms.

Impact on Promotion and Box Office Success

Token releases often result in limited promotions and poor theatrical runs, which can affect a film’s box office performance. Filmmakers may feel that their movies have the potential to reach a broader audience with proper marketing.

Token releases can help Indian cinema make successful movies


Strain on Smaller Productions

While token releases work well for some films, smaller productions may struggle due to the lack of resources and promotional efforts. This trend may inadvertently sideline smaller, quality films that deserve more recognition.

Token releases have become a prevalent strategy in the Indian entertainment industry, driven by the need to minimise risks and streamline legal processes. While they offer benefits to both OTT platforms and producers, there is a significant impact on promotions, box office performance, and smaller productions. As this trend continues to evolve, it remains to be seen how it will shape the dynamics of the industry and whether it will be a long-term fixture in the world of Indian cinema.