Boycott Bollywood, OTT vs Theatre Have Stirred Up Movie Industry but What Are Viewers Really Looking For?

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Cineworld, the second largest theatre chain globally, is inching closer to its demise. Thanks to lacklustre, empty, and blockbuster-free post-pandemic cinema halls across the world, the theatre mogul is now preparing for bankruptcy. The news has already pushed its shares down by 60%.

Closer home, PVR is struggling too. Over the last week, the chain’s stock fell by 12.31%. With a 13% slump, contemporary INOX is also not faring well. While most of it can be attributed to poor financial performances of widely touted and anticipated films at the box office, that is not all.

Nearly 15 out of 20 major films released this year in theatres tanked, raking with them huge losses that range between $90-$100 million. As a result, cinema chains are fighting to survive. But what is driving viewers away?

Is Boycott a cause?

With more people snubbing big-budget films due to old controversial statements made by leading actors who star and produce these films, it is natural to wonder about this. Consider the case of Aamir Khan’s latest ‘Lal Singh Chadha’, which has been at the centre of this debate since its release.

Out of all films Khan has done in this millennium, ‘Lal Singh Chadha’ opened to the weakest financial response — just Rs 11.7 crore. Made on a massive budget of Rs 180 crore, the film has managed to earn only Rs 60.69 crore domestically to date, amidst rising instances of cancelled shows and empty halls.

Vehement boycott calls for upcoming mega-budget films such as ‘Brahmastra’, ‘Liger’, ‘Vikram Vedha’ and more are already raging on social media platforms.

However, to single it out as the main reason is unfair. Aneet Ahuja, a middle-aged Delhi-based avid cinema-goer and IT professional thinks so.

“Boycott has little to do with these deals of loss. Ultimately, content is the king. Even in earlier days, many film boycotts were regularly announced. But they had little impact. I believe if the content is superb, it will ultimately find its customer. That is also why Rakshabandhan and Samrat Prithviraj tanked,” he opined.

“Mundane, sub-standard, and mediocre content will not work for the Indian audience anymore. Take ‘Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2’, ‘Kashmir Files’, and other south Indian films like ‘RRR’, which attracted people to the cinema hall in large numbers,” continued Ahuja.

The whole world is here

Indeed, repackaging stale content in fresh garbs is not luring audiences anymore. With their watching exposure going global during the pandemic, things have changed.

Take the case of Meenal Sharma, who is a theatre artiste and likes to watch films. “I saw the trailer of ‘Rakshabandhan’ and was irritated at how medieval the content was. I’d rather prefer to watch good-quality films and TV series like ‘Family Man’, ‘Panchayat’, ‘Nirmal Verma ki Ghar Wapsi’, and more on Netflix and Prime,” she said.

Bringing back audiences from the convenience and extensive range of OTT to enjoying expensive movie-going experiences has been a tough job for filmmakers and cinema halls. Viewers have moved beyond just wanting value for money, they demand value for their time.

For Palash Pandey, an undergraduate student and amateur filmmaker and artiste, there is no stepping foot in cinema halls now. “I wait for films to come on OTT, which usually come within 2-3 weeks. I am more interested in global content, which has far better production value and content. I would never choose Hindi films or TV series over classics like ‘Stranger Things’, ‘Squid Game’, and more,” he signs off.

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