Once in a few decades we come across the pandemic that has hit the world and in 2020 it is the Covid-19 that has changed the lives of millions across the world. Keeping in the mind the misery for the whole world it has brought tears to many eyes, and has created a repel effect on the entertainment industry. Lot of films were supposed to be released between March 15th and April and all those films are stalled due to this lockdown situation.
Corona virus has brought India’s mega film industry to a complete standstill. Film makers are in this situation whereby most of the films produced in our country by the producer fraternity with the support of financiers. As we all know the world over, the trend and the interest component and the liability on filmmaking, film trading is not much supported by the banking industry as private investors take the larger chunks, due to which film making has always been a risky proposition.
Realizing that the theatres, multiplexes, malls and cinema halls have been shut, these big films do have a big support from the corporates, and will probably withstand the pressure and the delay in releasing their film in the later part of the year when normalcy is restored
As of now, one of the most popular film Director Rohit Shetty has two films ready for release and seven others in the pipeline for production. Similarly, Dharma Productions. Every production house is in a situation that we not aware how their future holds until things get back to normalcy and will know at what levels will the footfalls be at the theatres and cinemas.
Rohit Shetty’s most recent and latest installment, ‘Sooryavanshi’ was expecting a massive box office numbers and he had planned a strategic release that would coincide with the national holiday in India, however the release of the super cop film that was to hit the theatres on the 24th of March 2020 was stalled when India went into the 21-day lockdown to stop the spread of the dreadful disease. His films have carried a lot of dramatic actions and visually it is worth watch the same on a larger screen. But for now ‘Sooryavanshi’s release has been postponed indefinitely, so is Kabir Khan’s biopic film which was to hold its premiere on the 10th of April. The attraction to the film was the beautiful real-life superstar couple Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone release would have been a box office hit.
In reality even after the normalcy is restored with the lockdown period is over and multiplex and the theatres will be open, it is going to take a lot of time perhaps a few months to a year as it has been observed in the statements by various responsible citizens and officials of India, that social distancing will continue for many more years, with new arrangements of alternative seats in the theatre will be offered for viewing the film. Due to the new area of concern, there will be spike in the uncontrolled pricing of the ticket sales, expected black marketers for the movie buffs could come to forefront, and it would not just be the spike in the pricing, it is also primarily due the fact that audience will have a concern for expensive ticketing but also for their safety and unseen fear of disease.
The global habits are expected to adapt and change to the new reality due to the outbreak of the corona virus, which has its impact on the entertainment industry. Lower spends on entertainment outside home may have its own knock-on effects as audience will be more tuned to self-isolation, taking quarantine measures and stay home which has already increased the entertainment in home with its increased use of OTT services.
Therefore, producers are starting to re-consider the option of releasing their films on OTT and many such platforms that have been opened in their arenas offering their services to the entertainment industry. The OTT to market is highly influenced due to its rising trend during this lockdown period that has increased its penetration worldwide enabling its users to its access and the desired contents with the help of internet in the comforts of their own homes.
The present technology is available to one and all and such platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hot star, Boot, Zee 5, Google and many more. Their subscriptions with the growing demand have now increased their subscriptions which has reached sky rocketed during the lockdown period world over. This has brought about an unprecedented spike in the subscription levels and the OTT platforms are more than happy to cater to the windfall and making the most of it to increase their bank balance. In turn they also want to bring out new contents and produce contents for their platforms to satisfy the ever growing appetite of the masses. This is also a challenge that the contents will unleash a war between the OTT platform and the theatre owners in the coming months and years. Every OTT is designed to offer their platform with their strong backups to big ticket films as well that will withstand over a period of time. We have to wait and watch the realistic date of releases at a later stage.
With the standstill because of Corona, Hindi film industry sets have also been abandoned, closed cinemas and movie stars with empty diaries. The impact of Covid 19 has hit the Bollywood industry. The lockdown that is expected to extend, producers are already anticipating major changes in the way Bollywood is going to operate in future. There’s the new trend that has set in that that there are bigger worries then watching a film which may become a lesser priority for many that will affect the film industry.
Given the current scenario of the lockdown in the country, recently South Superstar Surya produced a film with his actress wife Jyotika and decided the film ‘Ponmangalvandhal’ release on one of the prime OTT Platforms. The Tamil Nadu Theatre Association is said to have raised its objection and threatened actor Surya of the consequences that if he releases his film on OTT they will be forced to boycott and ban all his future film releases in the theatres. On the other hand, many such films are ready for its release. The threat by the theatre association has not been taken well by the film fraternity, mainly the 30 film producers who have come together and put up their protest against the theatre owner’s decision, and are in favor of Surya. Here starts the war between the producers and the theatre owners.
In reality the war is not just between the theatre owners and producers, it is also a war between technology and finances. Producers cannot withstand the onslaught and are holding their unreleased products in their editing studios. They are concerned their products may become stale or their stories will be ancient if not released on time. To support the situation, Sujit Sarkar the director of the film, ‘ Gulabo Sitabo’ starring our legendary Amitabh Bachchan, has also shown interest in releasing his movie on the OTT steaming sites but is waiting till May 3rd 2020 to know the status of the Government’s decision on the lockdown and its next step to curb the spread of the Covid-19.
When we see the reality of the scenario, blockbusters are produced with big budgets and to realize their investments in their projects, the trend which has been sustained to collect from the theatre revenues, although at many times, the percentage of theatre v/s software revenues have echoed or rather they have resultantly given better revenues in comparison to theatres.
This also brings to light the launch of Jio, large advertisements by the owner Mukesh Ambani loud and clear stating during his investor’s conference, that by 2020 movies would be released and consumers would get to watch it on 1st day first show basis through Jio connection. Little did he know or we are sure he did not see the future of 2020 with Corona Covid 19 spread that lead to truly people watching the films from their mobiles, laptops, iPad etc. The unprecedented epidemic has lead us to believe that it’s like the WW3 that no astrologer has predicted. Only difference is in the past when we saw the epidemics spread, we hear of millions dying compared to what it’s today, having said that the virus is being curtailed due to the technology and information that is helping to keep the figures low.
Looking at the current trend of OTT platforms, and Shoojit Sircar’s decision or film producer and actor Surya’s initiative during the lockdown position, many more film makers will come forward and offer their films on OTT platform in the coming few weeks as producers of the films have their films ready. OTT in turn are facing a challenge of providing their services and their software to the ever hungry audience sitting at home, who are constantly looking for entertainment through these forums.
Having said that there is a growing concern for precautionary measures that will be required for new shooting, maintaining social distancing norms and the films have to be produced faster than in the earlier times due to which producers may face problems. It is anticipated that the new contents in the year ahead in 2020 will be much lesser, which will accelerate the price of the OTT platforms as well.
Keeping all our above observations, we feel the consumer is the king ultimately and, consumers will get their new feed as India is one of the largest producers of content and as the age old proverb goes, Indians live on Fish Curry Rice and Entertainment which is their staple diet.
Technology is going back to switching to life cycle, with new technology taking over. Back in the days we did not have televisions, then came the advent of Black and White televisions, followed by colored televisions, telephone instruments were rare in few homes after which followed the pager and then the mobiles. We have the smart phones that at the click of the button we get the entire world at our feet so to say, be it the banking, personal notes, WhatsApp connections, Facebook accounts twitter, the entire social media segment is on the phone and so is the OTT platforms.
There was a time when mobile companies would charge Rs. 16.00 per minute and is now being offered free. While it is reported that Mukesh Ambani has promised in year 2020 to find a solution to theatre opening getting delayed, filmmakers, producers may release their films on OTT platforms.
Summing up to the entire story let us wait and watch and see the consumers’ reaction in the time to come which will really decide the fate of the entertainment industry… As they always say CONSUMER IS THE KING!