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The digital revolution, hype and indies

This Hindu Business Line report states Fun Republic, the Essel Group exhibition and retail property company has plans to launch a 1000 screens in the next five years. If you ignore the cheerleading and the hype that typifies Indian media coverage today (“The day is not far when sitting on a comfortable couch in your drawing room, you will see Keanu Reaves somersault through the air in The Matrix the same moment audiences in the US view it for the first time on their big screens.”) some interesting points can be dug out. Cinemax, the report claims:

…is in talks with producers for mutually sharing the cost of digital movies.

This is unlike the strategy of UFO Moviez who merely provide the platform and expect the producers/distributors. Manmohan Shetty of Adlabs also informs us that digital cinema will benefit the small budget film and not the big budget ventures. By “small budget film” I am sure Shetty meant indies and not the cinema conglomerates such as Adlabs, Yash Raj.

Contrary to received wisdom, this may not be the blue pill that the small budget film had hoped for. Big budget players sink money not just into production but a key component of the budget is marketing and promotion. Aided by the money that goes into promotions and the last mile, synchronised delivery of films means the promotion costs can be simultaneously recouped from a wider audience net. Digital Cinema will help them extract the weekend share of the wallet from Mumbai as well as Machilipatnam. Yes, the indies can get their films across to Mapusa, but that still leaves them with the problem of getting the audience to part with their money.

5 comments

1 Suruchi Mazumdar { 09.06.07 at 9:47 am }

The idea is to recover as much money as possible in the first few days of release, which has propelled big production houses in the Hindi film industry to embrace digital distribution. Most Hindi blockbusters release with huge number of prints, which enable them to target even so-called B and C centres in the first phase of their release. For instance, Don hit the theatres with a staggering 700 prints, while Ram Gopal Varma’s disastrous Aag released with about 630 prints. The filmmakers try to make most of the ‘curiosity’ value of the audience, so that it doesn’t turn out to be a major debacle, in case the film flops. (However, Varma couldn’t help it this time.) While ‘corporatised’ Bollywood is following the footsteps of Hollywood (as always), the independent/small budget filmmakers are still relying on the traditional ‘word of mouth’ value system. Small budget ventures like Khosla Ka Ghosla and Pyar Ke Side Effects were hugely successful last year. Often, there are independent ventures that publicly target so-called urban sectors or ‘multiplex audience’. In such cases too, the requirement of digital distribution and simultaneous release seem superfluous.

2 Kishore Budha { 09.06.07 at 10:25 am }

Interesting article in The Statesman:

“10-point Ficci revival package for multiplex industry

Statesman News Service
NEW DELHI, Sept. 2: Archaic laws governing regulation of cinema and a highly burdensome tax regime are posing a serious challenge to the multiplex industry, leading to closure of cinema theatres and shutting out investment in multiplexes, Ficci has said, suggesting a 10-point revival package.
To infuse a new lease of life to the multiplex industry, which contributes 70 per cent of all film revenues, the chamber sought standardisation and modernisation of cinema regulations under a Central Uniform Cinema Code to be applicable across the country. It also suggested removal of restriction on pricing and number of shows.
It said licensing should be under a ‘single-window’ clearance concept and digital distribution should be specifically permitted.
With regard to entertainment tax, the chamber said, “to mitigate concerns of adverse revenue impact on state finances, reduction may be done in phases over next three years”. The chamber has also asked for simplification and standardisation of all laws governing the sector.
In a detailed assessment of the problems dogging the multiplex industry, Ficci pointed out that India was amongst the highly ‘under-screened’ countries in the world. It had only about 12 screens per million in comparison to the US, which had about 117 screens per million. There was thus an estimated shortfall of an estimated 40,000 screens in the country.
The major areas of concern for the multiplex industry were legal and regulatory as well as fiscal issues.
Under the Constitution, the power to ‘regulate’ and ‘tax’ cinema exhibition is with the state government. Hence, each state has its own ‘Cinema Regulation Act’, ‘Cinema Regulation Rules’ and ‘Entertainment Duty Act’. Problems with these laws were multiplicity, non-standardisation, obsolete and subjectivity. ”

http://www.thestatesman.net/page.arcview.php?clid=12&id=195833&usrsess=1

3 spiritofhegel { 09.06.07 at 10:47 am }

Suruchi: Do the low-budget filmmakers really have a choice but to rely on word of mouth. Given the veil of secrecy the industry operates in, there is very little quantification of what constitutes a success or failure. A few self-appointed industry experts define success of films. It is high time the industry cleaned up its act.

4 Suruchi Mazumdar { 09.07.07 at 8:11 am }

Independent filmmakers certainly do not have the luxury of affording simultaneous digital release of their films across many centres. At the same time, corporate producers like UTV or Pritish Nandy Communications (PNC) avail of digital distribution only for their big budget productions. For their small budget productions, they mostly identify specific sectors as their target audience and plan the distribution accordingly. The industry is yet to adopt a standardised approach towards digital distributions.

5 Suruchi Mazumdar { 09.07.07 at 8:11 am }

Independent filmmakers certainly do not have the luxury of affording simultaneous digital release of their films across many centres. At the same time, corporate producers like UTV or Pritish Nandy Communications (PNC) avail of digital distribution only for their big budget productions. For their small budget productions, they mostly identify specific sectors as their target audience and plan the distribution accordingly. The industry is yet to adopt a standardised approach towards digital distribution.

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