• Ashhar Hassan

The End of Theatre

What if, one day, the hypnotizing smell of your fresh, and crisp caramelized popcorn just comes to an end!

Monologue: Cinema and Theatre have been the heart of the Entertainment Industry and have defeated all odds even if it were two World Wars, the advent of Television, or VCRs, or CD players, etc. But like any other King, Both of them have passed their golden era and are now on the verge of downfall. Is it the end or can they really fight back?


What? Why!

The Global Entertainment Industry, especially Cinema and Theatre have been under so much pressure lately. Due to the ongoing Covid-19 Pandemic, Production houses and Multiplex chains have lost huge amounts of money. But in between these melancholic times rose the Online streaming platforms to their greatest heights providing users a free hand on the types of content they want to stream, or where they want to stream, or when they want to stream. But as they say “One man’s gain is another man’s loss”, Cinema and Theatre fell much deeper and the chances of its return diminish as the days descend.

The Dark Horses - OTT and its rise

OTT, or Over-the-top platforms, are audio, and video hosting and streaming services. It bypasses the standard methods of distributing such content, such as cable, broadcast, satellite television platforms, and the companies that often operate as content controllers. These started as content hosting platforms but branched onto the production and release of films or web series themselves.


BIGFlix

  • The first dependent Indian OTT platform,

  • Launched in 2008 by Reliance Entertainment,

  • Allowed viewers to stream/download content any time.

nexGTv

  • India’s first OTT mobile app,

  • Launched by Digivive in 2010,

  • Streamed both Live TV and on-demand content.

Ditto TV

  • One of the first video-on-demand platforms

  • Launched by Zee Entertainment Enterprises in 2012

  • Provided its customers with Live TV and Catch up Content.


The Indian OTT industry has grown exponentially over these years and It’s set to emerge as the world’s sixth-largest by 2024. According to PWC’s Global Entertainment & Media Outlook 2020, The market is expected to grow at a CAGR(Compound Annual Growth Rate) of 28.6% over the next four years to touch revenues of 290 crores.


Panchayat - OTT or Cinema: The Never-ending debate


Sacred Games - The Disputes

The Entertainment Industry doesn't have such a clean image. From time to time its roots have been shaken but have always risen above such damages.


May 2020: After the newly announced lockdowns by the government, there was no scope of releasing movies that had been ready to hit the theatres and so the producers decided to release the movies on online platforms, trying to do good. They found themselves in discord with the highly reputed, one of India’s biggest multiplex chains, INOX, where they released a statement objectifying the direct release of movies on the OTT platforms and how the decision is “alarming” and “disconcerting”.

May 2020: Amazon Prime’s Paatal Lok was hit with complaints from a BJP MLA Nandkishor Gurjar as the producers allegedly used his photo in the series without his permission and from the Sikh Community because a Sikh man was shown to be raping a woman while another Sikh man watched in despair.


November 2020: Netflix’s A Suitable Boy was under trouble as Gaurav Tiwari, National President of BJP’s Yuva Morcha, in Reeva complained about how the series “ hurt religious sentiments”


December 2020: MX Player’s Ashram was caught up in this mess when a petition was filed by resident Khush Khandelwal on how the series portrays Hindu saints indulging in unscrupulous activities while being corrupt and building a cult.


December 2020: Netflix’s AK vs AK was called out by the Indian Air Force. They objected to Anil Kapoor wearing the IAF uniform inaccurately. “This does not conform to the behavioral norms of those in the Armed Forces of India. The related scenes need to be withdrawn.” tweeted the IAF.


January 2021: Amazon Prime’s Mirzapur was bashed when an FIR was lodged on January 17 in Mirzapur, Uttar Pradesh based on a complaint by Arvind Chaturvedi who alleged that the contents in the web series depict the city of Mirzapur as anti-social and infested with crime.


January 2021: Netflix’s Tandav has been the latest victim. Three FIRs have been registered over 6 cities for the scene where actor Md Zeeshan Ayub wears a pantsuit, holding a 'damroo' and saying "What the F***.” was alleged to be insulting the Hindu deity Shiv which has caused an uproar and soon after this #BanTandavNow trended on Twitter for days.



Inside Edge - Epilogue/Conclusion

The COVID-19 pandemic has substantially impacted the film industry, mirroring its impacts across all arts sectors. Across the world and to varying degrees, cinemas and movie theatres have been closed, festivals have been cancelled or postponed, and film releases have been moved to future dates or delayed indefinitely and due to this, the global box office has dropped by billions of dollars, and the stock of film exhibitors has also dropped dramatically.


Bollywood had seen more losses than earnings in the first six months of 2020. Experts estimate the entertainment industry has already lost more than a thousand crores because of the lockdown. “This is the first time in our history that the entire India box office is zero.


This change is huge even for Bollywood as most of its major movie stars were only acquainted with the multiplexes and regarded the idea of releasing movies on online streaming platforms as nothing but acts of tomfoolery. OTT has proven to be a new phase for Bollywood, in particular, and the Indian Media, in general.


Now the question arises: If Theatre and Cinema would be able to survive the pandemic and then the OTT onslaught or will it just fade away just like most of the other ancient inventions?



~ Ashhar Hassan


Sources: India Today, MidDay, IndiaTVNews, India.Com, Indian Express