Kainaat sent me a fascinating article, which also depresses me, but has the very small silver lining that it confirms my analysis of years is/was correct. Keep trusting me, stop fighting me, I do actually know what I am talking about. Depressing though it is.
How many times have we had a discussion here about if multiplexes and streaming services are good for the film industry? And how many times have I tried to explain that just because content is “good” does not mean it is healthy for the industry? That the film industry relies on profit and audience and tickets, not on making a movie that is some abstract perfect representation of Art? That just because we (educated English speaking westernized people) like a movie, does not mean the industry should make more movies to please us? That Star Culture is a fact of life in Hindi cinema and killing the stars will kill the industry? That you have to ignore the buzz and fake numbers and look at ticket sales, and the reality is the industry is dying and has been for years?
As I have said before, that kind of analysis didn’t come from my grad school training, it came from working at a movie theater where my ability to pay rent that month relied on movies releasing people actually wanted to see. Not films that had inflated opening weekends with 3D ticket prices, not films that got critical applause, but the movies people would come in to see and see again at our $5 ticket prices. No one thinks about the minimum wage workers who rely on the industry continuing, on the audiences coming in, least of all the filmmakers who are just looking at the bottom line, but if you don’t think about them, the industry is going to die. Films don’t survive on the rich people who can pay $20 for a ticket once every three months, they are a mass media, they survive when the masses by tickets.
And here are single screen owners talking to BollywoodHungama saying what I have been saying this whole time. Which I would like to think means I will no longer get people questioning me in the comments on my posts, and maybe even that the film writers at BollywoodHungama itself will stop blindly reporting fake box office numbers, but probably not. Blech. I’m having a hard day and having my darkest analysis confirmed is not helping.
And just in case you are a newbie, here is the basic background to understand what this is talking about. In Indian film, distributors bid a flat rate for the rights to a particular film. If the film makes a very small amount in box office tickets but more than the distributors paid, it is a “hit”. If the film makes a lot of money in box office tickets but less than the distributors paid, it is a “flop”.
Secondly, in India there are two kinds of theaters, “multiplex” and “single screen”. These are industry accepted legal definitions. The multiplexes tickets are taxed at a different rate, usually less, and the contract they have with distributors and producers gives them a higher percentage of the ticket prices opening weekend versus following weekends. Single screens consistantly sell far more individual tickets but at only a quarter of the prices that multiplexes charge. And often at a higher rate of taxes. Also, their profit share is distributors is different.
For the past 5 years at least, the story accepted everywhere but THIS BLOG is that multiplexes are healthy for the industry, allow “better” films to find a “better” audience. And that overall the industry is improving as the box office total figures shoot through the roof. With the introduction of streaming, the story became “streaming is good because it is easier for me (the audience) to find the films I want, and the films are better quality”. And only THIS BLOG has been saying “you are not the audience, you are but a small portion of the audience. And the films are only better quality according to your measure.”
Did I mention I’m feeling just tired and worn down today?
On the allusion of a healthy industry at the moment based on overall box office reports and distributor profits:
“Mara hua haathi bhi sawaa laakh ka hota hai! A film like Bang Bang may have lost money in the distribution chain. But do you realize it still made Rs. 70 crore for the exhibition sector? It takes 10 films like Ship Of Theseus to be able to reach that figure. So even if films like Bang Bang and Dabangg 3 underperform, it still makes a lot of money. In other words, it helps to earn the livelihood of lakhs of workers who work in the organized and disorganized film exhibition sector.”
On the limitations of streaming services:
“If you look at the OTT platform, whether it’s Netflix or Amazon, it has content that appeals to multiplex audience or those who have access to and awareness about global content. I don’t think that a typical Salman Khan or Tiger Shroff fan will be excited about watching a show like Silicon Valley or Money Heist on Netflix. So the audience that only has cinema as the primary source of entertainment when they step out of their house, our stars should focus on such audience rather than an audience which is disloyal to the theatrical medium. I really hope that our Hindi film fraternity can shift gears to treating cinema as a mode of entertainment for the mass. The day we do that, I see no reason why cinema won’t be able to thrive as a primary entertainment form all over again.”
On the responsibility of stars to work harder and make more movies for overall health of the industry:
“An actor like Hrithik Roshan can easily give 2 hits in a year. Same with Ranbir Kapoor. They want to become accomplished artists. For what? Why can’t they make a normal film? Then everyone will see.”
“Livelihoods of so many people are dependent on stars. If one single screen shuts, it means 20 people would be out of work.”
On the toxicity of the critics:
“I think a lot of our filmmakers and actors are influenced by wrong people in the wrong sense. The day we start taking audiences more seriously rather than an Anupama Chopra, we’ll be fine. She may be a great connoisseur of cinema from across the world, but the behaviour and consumption pattern of audiences in Europe and America are very, very different from that of audiences in India. There’s no way these critics from their ivory towers will be able to analyse films like Baaghi 3, War, Krrish, Singham etc. appropriately. In order to do that, you need to have the mindset of a common man. And I am not saying that films like Shubh Mangal Saavdhan or Andhadhun should not be made. They should be made and I love watching them. But these are not the films that help the entire ecosystem.”