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Two news films on Eid, but where is the audience? – IANS Column: B-Town

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Two news films on Eid, but where is the audience? – IANS Column: B-TownApril 14, 2024Mumbai, April 14 (IANS) The scene isn’t rosy for the film exhibition business and, resultantly, for the movies slated for release. Imagine, two major films were due for release on April 10. The release was officially announced, so were the advance bookings. But the response was so poor that even after opening the booking windows, the producers had to postpone the release by a day.

Why? Because they seemed to have realised that Eid was to be observed on April 11 and it would be more appropriate to have paid previews on the eve of the festival. The response was so poor again that the paid previews were cancelled. But what happened to Hindi film lovers? Eid, traditionally, has only added to footfalls.Both films have a heavyweight star cast. ‘Maidaan’ features Ajay Devgn; the other release, ‘Bade Miyan Chote Miyan’, has Akshay Kumar and Tiger Shroff, along with Malayalam cinema’s pan-India star Prithviraj Sukumaran, in the lead.It is not usual for a film to be withdrawn after the bookings are opened. There was no reason as such but there was an excuse. Oh, Eid is on the 11th, we might as well delay the release by a day! Corniest reason ever. And talking about paid previews, those were also cancelled because of audience indifference.Anyway, paid previews have proved to be disastrous on earlier occasions. One can imagine the lack of interest in ‘Maidaan’. The film has been six years in the making and its release plans were shelved a few times before.The other factor is that it is a film based on football, a sport that does not have a big following in the country. But what about ‘Bade Miyan Chote Miyan’? The film saw veteran star Akshay Kumar team up with the young Tiger Shroff, with Prithiviraj added to get eyeballs in the South! At least, that should have stirred some interest!Where does the fault lie? What happened to those Rs 500 crore+ grossers that we were promised? They were probably myths. Eid is typically a time for Salman Khan’s films, but even his last few films failed to draw the crowds despite having been released on Eid.The Salman films did not match up to expectations, but they did manage face-saving initial collections. Now, what has emerged with these two films is that the viewers have shown total indifference. For one thing, multiplex admission rates don’t attract Eid crowds. Nor are they attractive to the others.The exhibition trade, instead of seeing the need for rationalising admission rates, are trying to lure the viewers with temporary sops such as ‘buy one get one free’ and ‘watch four films for Rs 349’, and by observing ‘cinema day’, ‘cinema lovers day’, and so on.Now that is not a very bright idea. The audience that was willing to pay more than Rs 349 for one ticket is being undermined by you. Instead, you should find ways to compete with OTT platforms and the only possible solution seems to be rationalising admission rates,The same Indian movie buffs who were the kind who loved to crowd the cinemas to take in the ‘first day first show’ are now willing to wait long enough for the movie till it becomes available on OTT!How much does a monthly subscription to one of the major OTT platforms costs? They have slabs, depending on the duration of the subscription, in the range of Rs 300-400, orthereabouts?It comes with the choice of watching a film in the leisurely ambience of a viewer’s home with family and friends! For the price of an annual OTT subscription, all one can buy is, at best, three or four tickets for just one film!It is an established tradition that people love to watch a film on a big screen and, so far, that is what has kept the cinemas in business. It now looks like this old tradition is in the process of becoming a thing of the past. And then television screens are getting bigger and a cinema hall popcorn worth Rs 200 can easily be popped at home for as little as Rs 10 a packet ofkernel. And there’s no need to chew it like rubber!Coming back to ‘Maidaan’ and ‘Bade Miyan Chote Miyan’, both the films were released on April 11, and there are reviews, memes and video reviews about them which are more entertaining than the films themselves!Piracy Follows Digital PathA criminal is always a step ahead of the law and this is an age-old belief borne out of experience.There have been various kinds of piracy when it comes to the film industry. It did not start only after the video format arrived, although it became rampant and easier.In the era of physical film prints, it was different. It was more a case of robbery than piracy. A film’s positive release prints were in transit till it completed an 18-month run through a film distribution territory. A film in those days did not do Rs 500 crore in a few days and except from those who invest in films, people at large did not care how much it collected.They either liked a film or did not. It took around 18 months by when it recovered its investment and made profits, if any.A film had a merry run and went around the different parts of a circuit. Soon, there came the first idea of home entertainment in the form of the video format. The scene was to change dramatically, probably never to be repaired.The video format brought with it video piracy. Film prints were hijacked for a few hours while they were in transit or in cahoots with a cinema management. Video cassettes gave way to discs with improved quality and now piracy thrives on digital media.There are portals that show only pirated videos, which are made available on the same day, albeit within an hour of a film’s theatrical release! Then there is piracy borne out of rivalry among filmmakers or actors. I don’t know who does it and how, but links to a new film are posted on YouTube soon after its release.The Motion Picture of Association (MPA) is a powerful body representing the film business in the US. It has approached the US Congress to help curb digital piracy, which not only eats into box-office collections, but also affects the jobs of many. The MPA has a list of websites that engage in piracy and want the US Congress to block these sites.I don’t know if blocking a website solves the problem. People find ways to access such websites. In our film industry, each filmmaker has to fend for himself. Neither fellow filmmakers, nor the associations help. And there are too many of the latter!–IANSsrb/

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