Does Covid-19 mean a death knell for Cinemas?
Covid 19 has indeed killed thousands of people and industries worldwide, the film industry being one of them. It may not have hurt smaller countries where Cinema was not really a big industry but in India, it certainly has.
The Indian film industry valued at INR 180 billion in 2019 has taken a huge hit. The last film released somehow in the Hindi film industry was ‘Angrezi Medium’. This Irrfan Khan starrer could hardly reach its audience before Corona wrought its havoc on the country and Movie Theatres were closed. Since then, in the Hindi belt alone, scores of films are awaiting release.
As the disease is still on the rise and the employment on the decline, the prospects of further releases at least for the next two months look bleak. Even if the Movie Theatres open the viewer's confidence to return to Movie Theatres would be low. No Producer worth his salt would risk the release unless he is sure of normalcy in the Movie Theatres and consistency in attendance. This means in real terms a few thousand crores of rupees are stuck.
What has been the bane of Cinema has however been a boon for Over the Top Media platforms like Netflix, Amazon, Hotstar, Zee5, and others. Due to the lockdowns, the consumption of Content rose manifold on these platforms. Recently, Shoojit Sircar’s ‘Gulabo Sitabo’ was also had its world premiere on an Amazon Prime Video but is this a viable solution if the normalcy doesn’t return for some more time. While the Content consumption has gone up tremendously on these platforms, their film acquisition intake is low and the commissioning process for new Content extremely slow. There is virtually no way that some 20 odd OTT platforms can support Cinema as even a stop-gap arrangement.
The Over the Top (OTT) media may be a temporary solution for a few films but it can’t be a futuristic or viable solution for a majority of films and certainly not for most big-budget films.
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