One of life’s most complicated contemporary problems: should I watch this movie in the theater, or should I wait for streaming? It’s a question we ask ourselves every Friday while browsing Fandango. There are special complications for Bollywood fans (and Indian film fans more generally) in the United States. Hindi films play in fewer theaters and for a shorter period of time than big Hollywood releases, adding a sense of urgency. Yet the proliferation of streaming services that host Indian content has led many of us to assume — myself included — that we can always catch any movies we miss when they come out on streaming.
The India-based website Bollywood Buff keeps track of Hindi releases on four major streaming services: Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar, and Zee5. A scan through Bollywood Buff’s invaluable digital rights list gives an idea of what’s coming to each service in the next few months (click the above link for exact release dates, where available):
- Netflix: Game Over, Article 15, Kabir Singh, Saaho
- Amazon Prime: SotY 2, Arjun Patiala, Khandaani Shafakhana, Balta House, Section 375, War
- Hotstar: Super 30, Mission Mangal, Chhichhore
- Zee5: Malaal, Judgementall Hai Kya, Jabariya Jodi, Dream Girl
Defaulting to the “I’ll wait for streaming” option can be dangerous because it assumes you have all four streaming services. One problem: Zee5 isn’t available in the US, due to a non-compete clause with Dish Network. If, like me, you missed Judgementall Hai Kya in the theater, well… tough tacos — unless I want to eventually buy it on DVD (or request that my public library do so).
Then there’s the question of just how much consumers are willing to spend to have access to content on multiple streaming services. My monthly costs for Netflix and Prime are already nearly $30, and Hotstar would add another $10. Add to that other services like Hulu or CBS All Access that don’t carry Indian content — or any of the forthcoming services like Disney+, HBO Max, and Apple TV+ — and costs can quickly spiral out of control. Having access to more content doesn’t increase the amount of time I have available to watch it.
Going forward, I’m going to mention which service owns the digital rights to new releases in my Weekly Theater Updates whenever possible. Those posts focus on Chicago area theaters, but the streaming video information should be helpful to readers across the US (and often Canada as well). As I’ve become more selective about what movies I see in the theater, I’m going to judge each film on a case by case basis. Truth is, if it’s a movie I really, really want to see, I’ll probably find a way to watch it in the theater rather than risk missing out. [Case in point: Junglee.]