Theatres vs OTTs: The battle of Entertainment

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the entire world like never before. What seemed to be a dystopian reality has now become the new normal. With over seven months of big screens going dark, the Home Ministry has finally given the green light to opening theatres and cinemas. What exactly does this mean for a country that thrives off cinematic entertainment?
India has always been abuzz with the latest blockbuster and the on-going trend of box-office frenzy. The Indian cinematic experience is one that woos people with its vibrance, exciting takes, and larger than life visuals. However, cinemas and theatre experiences have been at a standstill due to the lockdown, especially in some parts of India. The question is- Will the cinephiles switch back to big-screen viewing of the latest movies? Are OTT platforms slowly stealing the spotlight? Let’s break it down.

The Cinematic Enigma

Indian cinema drives the pulse of the nation, and its reach is quite evident. With giant billboard advertisements to packed halls for the first day first shows, India has a tradition-based entertainment model and cinema that binds the entire nation and brings them together to celebrate the magic of reel life. A typical day at the movies entails plushy seats, comfort snacks and beverages, larger than life visuals, and instant transportation into the characters’ world, which marks a typical day at the movies for Indians. The plethora of emotions that the theatre experience provides moviegoers is what keeps them hooked! The experience of viewing a movie in cinemas is unparalleled. It evokes a sense of community and is also deemed a relaxing pastime for one and all. Companies like BookMyShow are putting their foot forward to draw the movie junkies back to cinemas safer and healthier than ever. Rolling out the ‘my safety first’ feature, BookMyShow’s safety shield feature will list all the safety measures and precautions taken by cinema places across India. It includes safety features like in-cinema seat distancing, thermal screening, contactless security check, availability of hand sanitizers, daily temperature check for staff, availability of packaged food & beverage (F&B), limited occupancy in restrooms, compulsory masks, social distancing in cinema premises, sanitization before every show, and much more. There’s a lot at stake with the reopening of theatres. Many folks would agree that there is an excitement in the air for movie theatres opening up and providing solace to movie lovers who’re tired of being cooped up at home all these months. On average, The Indian theatrical sector is more extensive than what it is in countries like the U.S and conjures up a hefty 60-65% of the overall revenue. There are several constraints, but the experience of going to the cinema is part and parcel of being Indian and is always a fun time. The theatrical-OTT shift is evident in 2020, from movie promotions to shooting. Film promotions have shrunk, shootings postponed, and digital media has been on a growing trend among the people.

The Rise of OTT’S

OTT platforms had been going strong even before the pandemic; however, with the lockdowns imposed, OTT’s proved to be rather a significant relief for the masses. India has around 30+ OTT platforms going strong. Some of them are:
  1. Hotstar
  2. Amazon Prime Video
  3. Viu
  4. Voo.
  5. Sony LIV
  6. Eros Now
  7. Netflix
  8. ZEE5
  9. Ditto TV
  10. Big Flix
What makes OTT’s even more convenient is the health risk and constraint that public spheres now pose to people. Hence, the switch to OTT’s is undeniably one that proves to combine entertainment and easy access to a word of cinema right in the comfort of our homes.
Film producers and industry biggies have accepted the strong position the OTT holds in the current entertainment scenario. With many big names and production houses choosing to release their films on OTT platforms, the cinema setup is sure to take a big hit. OTT’s also have proved to supply a string of brilliant small scale movies and encourage the rise of indie cinema. With fresher twists and storylines to imminent scripts and newer faces, the Indian demographic is slowly developing quite a penchant for OTT’s.

The Statistics

The Indian box-office generates yearly revenue of Rs 10-15,000 crores. The lockdown period led to a slump that caused a quarter of that business to be lost. As films like Gulabo Sitabo and Shakuntala Devi are getting released on OTT, an additional loss of Rs 100-125 crore is estimated.

A Cinephiles’ Verdict

As an avid movie enthusiast who loves Indian cinema’s essence, choosing between the fresher and available OTT streaming or the old school magic of theatres is tough. But will this be the end of the movie theatre or just a minor setback in the well-oiled movie industry? Only time will tell.
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