These are unprecedented times and the world is slowly, and somewhat reluctantly, accepting the fact that life post Covid-19 will not be the same. With most of the activities shifting to the virtual space, it was natural that cinema — one of the biggest mediums of entertainment in the world — would go digital as well.
This shift is also being propelled by a rise in the standard of living, evolution of smartphones, ubiquitous and affordable Internet connectivity coupled with increasing penetration in rural areas, and changing preferences of the audience. Content is now the king in a real sense, it is personalised and provides opportunity for wider-focused distribution.
All thanks to the world of OTT.
The biggest virtue of this entire OTT experience is accessibility.We can watch it in our bedroom, at parking lots waiting for a friend or while travelling in a cab when you’re tired of hearing the same joke from your ‘friendly’ driver for the third time. You can watch and rewatch it at your own pace. Heck, we can watch the first half of a horror film, and later the second half of a romance to end the day on a good note. OTT platforms come with oodles of freedom.
The luxurious feeling of watching your favourite movie at your preferred timing (even on a boring flight) is not possible in case of a theatre-going experience. There, you have to adhere to the strict show timings, none of which match your schedule (I genuinely think my tuition teacher always checks the show timings of the movie I excitedly tell him I’ll be seeing on Sunday and keep the class at the same time deliberately (@my maths tutor, am joking, maybe).
Also, if you’re planning to see the movie with your family be ready for a bomb, because it is never just the movie. It is also about the same old popcorn and burger that your brother ‘loves’ for lunch, it’s about roaming in the mall for hours to find the grey suit your dad wants, but forgot where he saw the last time he came here. And don’t forget, the uncomfortable position you’re in when the stranger next to you relentlessly puts his hand over your arm rest or a kid starts crying just as the spy is about to solve the mystery.
But think of it this way:
Cinema hall is an escape room where your movements are restrained and your eyes are transfixed on the light coming from the wall. It is pitch dark inside, a spiritual awakening for those who have gracefully accepted cinema as a religion. I know you’re saying ‘it’s not that deep’, but that absolute joy of rediscovering yourself in a cinema hall, watching a movie unfold, those collective highs and lows, smiles and tears, whistles and hoots, these connections with the community are sacred. This experience is almost therapeutic and no Netflix and Amazon can offer this to its ‘modern’ customers.
The debate regarding direct-to-digital release has witnessed a massive rift in the film industry. The ongoing pandemic has impacted several industries across the world — and the film and television industry is one of the most hit industries. Several producers have decided to release their films directly on the OTT platforms rather than in theatres; after all, theatres are not going to open anytime soon. This particular decision has been taken owing to monetary and logistical factors. However, the ‘OTT vs theatres debate’ has just begun and is not about to end in the unforeseen future.
Three in four Indians prefer watching a movie on various over-the-top (OTT) platforms in the social distancing times as compared to just one in four who would still love to go to a cinema hall, a new survey said. The survey by app distribution platform MoMagic found that 54% of the consumers would still grab beverages and snacks in the theatre halls, followed by 44% who said no.
“About 71% of the respondents find ticket price a factor to watch a movie in a theatre, followed by 27% who said the price does not matter,” said Arun Gupta, CEO and founder, MoMAGIC Technologies. While 75% of the respondents said social distancing among occupied seats in a movie hall would impact the overall watching experience, only 23% said it will not impact them.
Further, “72% of the consumers said they would invest in buying a large-screen TV and home theatre to watch their favourite flicks at home rather than a movie hall,” Gupta added. The excitement to go back again for a movie experience with family at a cinema hall was also varied among the respondents. While 44% of the consumers said they are excited, 265 were not so much excited, while for 15%, the pleasure is simply not there owing to Covid-19 pandemic.
There has been a definitive surge in Indians taking new subscriptions of various content streaming services and according to a new survey, more than 75% of Indians have purchased new subscriptions of over-the-top (OTT) platforms during the lockdown period. A survey from market research and analysis firm Velocity MR with a small sample size of 3,000 respondents found that 73% people started watching Hotstar and YouTube, while Amazon Prime and Netflix saw an increase in subscription of 67% and 65% respectively.
Social media apps such including WhatsApp (92%), YouTube (84%) and Facebook (80%) also saw a surge in their usage during the lockdown. “As no new daily soaps are being aired during the lockdown, 80% preferred watching movies followed by National News (65%),” Jasal Shah, Managing Director and CEO, Velocity MR, said in a statement. The findings showed that more than 80% of the respondents use WhatsApp for video conferencing, thus making it the top video conferencing app used during the lockdown. Skype is majorly used by salaried individuals (41%).
With more free time due to the lockdown, 52% people found it as an opportunity to upgrade their skills or enrol themselves in online courses. E-learning companies also saw a rise, with BYJU’s enrolling students at 33%, followed by Unacademy (28%) and Udemy (28%), said the survey.
So, are more people watching content online and using streaming OTT platforms during this period of self-isolation and quarantine due to the coronavirus pandemic? It’s an official Yes!
While it’s a win-win situation for makers and the audience, theatre owners have raised an alarm and expressed their ‘disappointment’ at the new move. With cinema halls shut and film releases suspended amid the pandemic, theatre owners battle fears that digital platforms might end up changing the collective movie watching experience, resulting in a dent in the footfalls whenever the screens open up again.
This battle thus remains a mystery that will unfold itself with time.