How As Filmmakers We Can Save Cinemas
There is no denying the fact that the film industry has suffered huge losses just like many other sectors of the economy that have been hit by the pandemic.
As the toll continues to rise, so have studio losses. With cinema halls and multiplexes open as per new guidelines in the country from October 15, film makers have an important responsibility. How to save the cinemas.
Rather than being wiped out, the theatre/cinema model will continue to evolve. There is enough risk-reward ratio of theatrical release as a means to attract investors and release blockbusters. Audiences still crave the thrill of the big screen with CGI driven spectacles and surround sound.
What then must we do?
Adaptation is the name of the game
If you analyse the history of cinema closely, you will find that the film industry has risen like Phoenix in the past from many such events. Most notably, the flu bans of the Spanish influenza in 1918 shook the very foundations of the cinema halls with almost 90% theatres closed on and off for months owing to health decrees.
The industry then ran a national public relations campaign promoting hygiene and showcasing the measures they were taking to curb the stop of infection from cleaning to new ventilation systems to staggered seating.
While it took more than a couple of years, Hollywood was back with a bang. It gave rise to the major Hollywood studios dominated by money and profits. Audiences that had so far enjoyed a variety of shorts welcomed the studio system’s expensive full length and formulaic films.
As they say, in every crisis there is a lesson and an opportunity. Similarly, Hollywood and Bollywood have survived wave after wave of disruption. When television threatened the content with its serialised daily soap or weekly appeal, or depression and war.
Hollywood’s response to the small screen home viewing experience was to go big. The aspect ratios were enhanced to wider screens 1.85:1 or 2.25:1 and they innovated with colour high fidelity audio to add to their features.
With animated films and 3D, filmmakers proved once more that there is nothing like the big screen to enjoy cinema.
In many ways the current pandemic is about the rivalry between streaming platforms and theatrical movies.
What filmmakers can now do to salvage the day is to use their cinematic appeal to attract the audiences. By bringing in more content that’s ‘exclusively made for the big screen’ and limiting distribution rights to theatre, by bringing stories that are unique and untold, and by pulling out all the stops at their disposal.
If history is any indicator, then we are possibly gearing up for an amazing decade of cinema. One where a vast diversity of films driven by form, style and content emerge to fit varied modes of distribution.
It is time for Filmmakers, multiplex owners and various cinematic bodies to put their thinking hats on and identify strategies that will speed up recovery. A massive public relations exercise is called for – one which emphasises new hygiene measures, sanitation practices and the appeal of the big screen to rake in nostalgia.
Both brick and mortar and virtual cinema have a place in our media hungry ecosystem. We just need to have patience.