Big Bollywood releases are treated as a festival in this country due to the cultural proximity of the average Indian with Indian cinema. This proximity gave substantial economic benefit to cinema halls for decades. It was a good practice of capitalizing on human emotions to the famous Bollywood drama and the craze of beloved protagonists. However, in the times of the pandemic where human interaction is a risk, there arises an uncertainty on the release of these big Bollywood films that acted as a cash cow for Indian cinemas.
We can analyze the causes of these uncertainties and their consequences that have a long-term permanent impact under the auspices of four factors. The pandemic is the initiating key, while the other factors result from a domino effect with a perpetual nature. Hence, the causes of doom for Indian cinema halls include the pandemic, which is complemented by the rise of OTT platforms. Furthermore, human traits are also impacting the Indian cinema negatively, and the cumulative impact is giving rise to a power imbalance that is crushing any hopes left for their revival.
The nexus between Pandemic and Indian Cinema
The pandemic has badly hurt Indian cinema halls in multiple arenas. Pernicious impacts include lesser footfall due to the implementation of covid protocols. Thereby, many big-budget movies like Sooryavanshi and 83 are kept at stalls even after more than one year of their completion. Human reaction to external factors tends to play a vital role in the economics of tangible services. In light of this principle, even if we take covid protocols out of the equation, the inherent fear of the virus prevents people from stepping out from their respective houses. Therefore, cinema halls fall under the high-risk category of businesses vulnerable to the ancillary impacts of the virus.
While Bollywood tried to revive the cinema hall culture since last month, it failed miserably. All the movies starting from Roohi, Mumbai Saga, Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar, and Saina bombed at Box Office with very few audiences at the ticket counters. Even though movies like Saina and Mumbai Saga received great responses from critics, the fear of CO-VID surpassed the need for entertainment in the minds of the people.
Rise of OTT platforms
The lockdown catalyzed the growing popularity of online content. Even before the pandemic, the idea of having access to quality content at significantly low prices was a major attraction. When the option of cinema halls got eliminated, people subscribed to multiple streaming platforms, which was a very viable replacement. A year’s subscription was available at a price equal to an average ticket for one movie/one show. OTT platforms offer a plethora of quality content from the comfort of our homes, while a movie hall requires a significant expense of travel and effort. When we apply the principle of demand and supply in the context of pricing or action, the scale falls in favor of OTT platforms.
Also, the prolonged delay meant many commercial potboilers of Bollywood decided to get released on OTT platforms. Movies like Laxmi, Coolie No 1, The Big Bull, and many more got a direct OTT release to cover up the cost. It was a win-win situation for all movies. Firstly, they got a direct profit from the OTT platforms and didn’t have to wait for months to get the profit revenues. Secondly, almost all the movies discussed here were badly bashed by critics and the audience for their weak script, acting, and direction. Therefore, it was impossible for producers to yield a profit if their movies got a direct theatre release. Therefore, in the long run, many big-budget movies, who are doubtful of their content may directly go for an OTT release to safeguard their profits, thereby creating more troubles for big screens.
The trait of Human Adaptability working against the interests of Indian cinema
Humans tend to adapt to a change in circumstances. This inherent trait has helped our race survive the process of evolution. It takes just twenty-one days for an average person to adapt and get comfortable with a novel situation. Months of lockdown and the fear of covid-19 have forced unwilling souls to adjust and get comfortable switching to the OTT platform as a replacement to Indian cinema halls. We can reasonably classify the two services as having a highly elastic relationship. This fundamentally means that any slight increase in the prices of tickets in cinema halls would raise the demand for OTT content. Hence, human behavior exacerbates the business of cinema halls.
Imbalance of economic power between Filmmakers and Cinema Halls
According to media reports, cinema heads stated that they are likely to see filmmakers try to arm-twist them as their business is currently in a sensitive state. Audiences are unlikely to return in significant numbers soon after reopening. Hence, at the cost of losing cinema halls as their disseminators, producers have an alternative of OTT platforms. Since cinema halls aren’t their priority, the balance of power shifts in favor of producers.
Therefore we see a trend that many big-budget movies are now opting for simultaneous release on the big screen as well as OTT platforms. South sensation Master and Salman Khan’s upcoming movie Radhe are opting for the formula of simultaneous release.
The pandemic has distorted the very foundation of economic predictability due to fluctuation of cases and the perpetual risk of lockdowns. There is an environment of fear that will only subside when the horrors of the virus get eliminated for good, and people can resume everyday life.
Image Source- Google
Story By- Sayak Karmakar, Resident Editor, Interview Times
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