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Cinema Hall owners dread as filmmakers consider OTT premieres

With the cinema halls shut and film releases being suspended due to nationwide lockdown, the cinema hall owners fear as the filmmakers are choosing over-the-top (OTT) platforms for the release of upcoming films. The digital platforms might change the overall concept of going to cinema halls and watching a movie and they are working way too hard to make space and pushing up their content every week. Cinema experience is at a particular time and at a particular location but OTT provides the user to stream unlimited content online anytime, anywhere.

Also, the pandemic has created fear among the people, they are afraid to step out and go to public places. It’s not like gates will open and people will throng to the cinema halls. China recently re-opened its cinema halls after confirming that it has contained coronavirus and the attendance was very low. China’s current situation is our upcoming one, no one’s going to come to the theatres or cinema halls at least, that won’t be the first thing on people’s mind as the lockdown gets lifted. And why will people come to the theatres when the digital platforms are catching up so fast and providing people with their favourite movies and TV shows at home for free during the quarantine.

The cinema hall owners dread about the release of big-ticket movies which might stream online and jump their three-month ticket window. The 90-day or 45-day window that protects cinemas will be attacked and will go very soon because cinemas will become a burden if people don’t show up. With ample time and nowhere to go, it’s obvious that people will choose digital platforms. Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar providing an array of contents will never lack their users. With 30 OTT and 10 Music platforms, Indians are prone to consume an array of contents during the lockdown.

The Disney’s video-on-demand streaming service Disney Plus (Disney+) also arrived in India weeks ahead of its scheduled launch date via Hotstar which has made 40 million downloads for the app. In a survey Netflix said that its users watch at least one movie in a week in India, film viewing is highest in the country as compared to others. OTT platforms have also hit the TV cable network; there was a decline of nearly 12-15 million active subscribers for the cable & satellite universe in the fourth quarter (Q4) of the financial year 2019. However, the challenge for the OTT platforms is to give new content for the users to binge-watch as making shows have been rescheduled due to the ongoing pandemic.

But some experts say that the cinema experience will always be greater than the home viewing as it marks a memory- birthday, date or anniversary. We are social beings and we like to step out to meet other social beings. Irrespective of coronavirus crisis, the cinemas have made a special place in people’s heart. Movies like ‘Suryavanshi’, ‘RRR’ if streamed online will entertain half as much they do in a theatrical format. People who have found comfort in binge-watching their laptop screens will get to a saturation point as no new thing will be available to them as everything they wanted to catch up would be done in this lockdown period. The experts also agree that as the cinema halls open up they will not experience a lot of crowds, it will take time to form the environment which encourages people to step out of their homes.

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