The audience getting accustomed to watching content on OTT has emerged as a big challenge to the film industry.

A largely empty theatreImage courtesy: PTI
news Cinema Monday, July 25, 2022 - 19:42

Acknowledging the prevailing crisis in the Telugu film industry where post the COVID-19 induced lockdown, very few films like RRR have been successful at the box-office, Telugu film producers like Dil Raju, C Kalyan and others recently held a meeting to address this issue. The discussion centered around the shift in the attitude of the audience who, post lockdown, got accustomed to watching films at the comfort of their homes on over-the-top (OTT) platforms as opposed to watching it on the big screen.  

Following this meeting, Dil Raju who is the producer of the recently-released Thank You, starring Naga Chaitanya and Raashii Khanna, reduced the ticket fare as a measure to mitigate the crisis. Yet, the film did not get good reviews and was a failure at the box-office, according to trade analysts.

While Thank You wasn’t particularly a bad film, and probably would have worked relatively better in a pre-COVID scenario, the rising inflation, and an audience that is still reluctant to watch all films in the theatres, have emerged as big challenges to the film industry.

“More than the ticket fare it is the food and beverage cost at the multiplexes which are repelling the audience. If a family is going for a film, per head the cost is invariably around Rs 500 or more. So why would people prefer to go to theatres when the same film is going to release on OTT in a couple of weeks?” says veteran film producer Tammareddy Bharadwaj. 

According to Bharadwaj, there are only six or seven films in a year which are highly-anticipated by the audience. “These could be big-budget films promising high entertainment. So the families will be willing to spend their monthly budget on such films; they are comfortable watching the other films at home,” he observes. 

Concurring with Bharadwaj, trade analyst Sreedhar Pillai says that film industries across the country are facing a challenge after viewing patterns of the audience changed. “Earlier, the audience used to come to the theatres even if the film was not great, but now, considering the cost of living and inflation, they are less inclined to come to the theatres.” 

Sreedhar observes that small-budget films are the biggest victims of the shift in the audiences’ attitude. “Two weeks after the film releases, the content is going to be available on OTT. And the audience feel ‘why should I waste my money on small films where I don't get any thrill while watching it on a big screen?’”    

He cites the example of Vijay Sethupathi’s Maamanithan which was released post the success of Vikram, which was a multi-starrer. Despite the film having good content, it did not succeed at the box-office.  

“The audiences are preferring big star movies. I still strongly feel that films with good content will work but they need big action sequences and other elements, which will thrill the youngsters, like Vikram, RRR, or KGF 2. These action-oriented films have worked big time because the youth like these kinds of films which are fun to watch in a theatre.” He adds, “If the content is good and has a big star in it, the audience will come to the theatre.” 

Bharadwaj, however, believes that if small-budget films do not overestimate their potential and do business wisely, they can overcome this crisis. According to him, small-budget films should screen their films in limited theatres instead of going for a wide release. “If a film has good content there are people who come to watch them. But the number of this particular audience is less. So, the filmmakers and team should instead opt for limited screens which would ensure that the audience is packed there. If it is a wide release with many screens and empty seats, it creates a perception that the film is not good [leading to its failure],” he says.    

Bharadwaj gives an example of 777 Charlie, which did fare better than other small films without any major promotions and purely through word of mouth. 

Trade analyst Taran Adarsh who primarily focuses on Bollywood films, says that while some films including the recently-released Shamshera, with Ranbir Kapoor in the lead role (which is performing poorly), “is a cause for concern”. He is, however, optimistic about the industry recovering soon.

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