Relevance of Cinema Theatres
Two weeks back, we were watching Dharma Durai at home feat. Superstar Rajinikanth on Raj Tv, a regional Satellite Tv channel that has remained in ”existence” for over 2 decades as a GEC. No matter which channel has innovated or grown, this one remains loyal to its user base telecasting movies of yore from the 70s, 80s and sparingly from the 90s. When Thalaivar appears in the first scene (in a negative film mode, a novel attempt by Director Rajashekar those days and repeated later by Director Suresh Krishna in Baasha!) and fights off the rowdies, I was howling, clapping and all excited in front of the TV screen much to the surprise of my kids – perhaps with almost the same enthusiasm I had when I watched First Day First Show at National Theatre, Tambaram ( a suburb of Chennai) on 14 Jan. 1991.
I was, with all glee sharing the events of that day with my family when I witnessed lathi charge for the first time as Police was regulating the frenzied “rasigans” outside the theatre who were awaiting a darshan at 11am to watch their matinee idol. The film went on to become one of the most memorable ones for Superstar’s emotional performance and was a turning point in his otherwise “standard scripts” he was famous for delivering back to back.
Honestly, I watched with the same excitement when Discovery Plus OTT App telecast “Man Vs. Wild” two months back feat. Superstar Rajinikanth in the deep forests of Bandipur Tiger Reserve with Bear Grylls – the FDFS occurred at 6am on the App. I have been watching a number of films on Netflix and Amazon Prime apps on my iPad over the past 3 years using terrific earbuds such as a Bose SoundSport & Air pods 2 to get a real feel of the original sounds and BGMs. I have also consciously missed watching a few films at theatres and I eventually catch up when they show up on OTT platforms such as the critically acclaimed Vaanam Kottattum and KKK.
When it was formally announced last week that the much awaited Tamil films Ponmagal Vandaal, Penguin, Amitabh Bachchan starrer Gulabo Sitabo and a clutch of other films would release during June 2020 directly on Amazon Prime, the Film Industry stands divided with the Producers Guild claiming revenue loss with theatres shut for over 3 months while Theatre owners accusing them of being “fair-weather friends” by not honouring the original business arrangement of a committed theatrical release.
Ardent Fans have been wanting to catch a glimpse of Keerthy Suresh with her next big outing Penguin in which she plays a Pregnant woman ( a little birdie tells me that it could be about IVF & surrogacy – a hotly debated topic in India) but the news of an OTT release has not dampened their spirits, to be honest. For, more fans can actually watch the film on their own devices – extra small, big or large (mobile phones, desktop or laptop computers and large screen TVs) at their own comfort and a time and location of their choice. Would this be the new normal, among other “budding consumption patterns”, thanks to N-Covid 19?
The jury is still to be out.
But for sure, there is a newer way of consumption that’s in place. From ordering grocery or fashion goods to watching televised programs and movies, consumer behaviour has been evolving all these years but this Corona Crisis has brought to the fray some very interesting patterns of how consumers view the move of a direct OTT release.
On a radio station yesterday, I heard listeners calling in the RJ during the show and expressing their willingness to watch new films on OTTs – one gentleman went on to say that the cost of outing to watch a movie one-time is the cost of an annual subscription for an OTT platform for a year! And along every visit to a theatre comes add-on expenses such as pop-corn and cola with a meal before or after the movie. The audience sees this as a saving. With no clarity on when Cinemas, Malls and Multiplexes would open with Lockdown 4.0 being an imminent occurrence, could this become the new norm that films choose to release directly or perhaps, simultaneously on OTT platforms as well as on big screens in the future? So, does this mean a death knell for Theatres and Multiplexes who invest Crores of rupees in setting up a screen?
Will share my thoughts in the next article.