American channels are looking to make a Netflix movie

Movie chains in the United States do not treat OTT platforms as an enemy or a competitor. Since Covid-19, the flow of new films has become slow; unlike previous releases, new releases are infrequent. And, of the few films that make it to theaters, few succeed.

Cinemas have come to terms with the current situation and are working on new ways to not only recover attendance, but also ensure there is something to play. Cinemas don’t have to sit empty without movies to screen.

There was this one-day experience with the International Cinema Day celebrations, where for one day cinema ticket prices were regulated at $3 in the US and £3 in the UK . Indian multiplexes followed this step a few weeks later on September 23, uniformly pricing tickets at Rs 75.

Post-lockdown, when OTT platforms were the sole source of any type of entertainment, many creative men shifted their efforts towards producing content for these platforms. A creative man, a filmmaker, cannot sit idly by, and OTT platforms were more like instant food or coffee. Work on a script for a few months or three, shoot for another 30-50 days depending on your project needs, and before the year is out, you’ve finished one project, cashed in, and are free for the next one.

OTT platforms have reduced much of the workload and saved on budgets, time, promotions and the middleman called cinema management. There was a time when every producer wanted to make a movie for the cinema. He no longer thought the same way. OTT platforms were as good as any, if not better, medium for expressing creativity.

Cinema chains in the United States have moved closer to the OTT platform netflix for the theatrical release of the next sequel to “Knives Out” (2019), “Glass Onions: A Knives Out Mystery”. It will be a one-week engagement from November 23-29 in 600 theaters across the AMC and Regal chains, which previously wanted a regular theatrical re-release.

The film will then be released on Netflix a month later on December 23. Just in time for Christmas. Usually, Netflix releases its movies soon after their theatrical release in the stipulated theaters, and ticket sales are not what the platform counts on.

And, since the “Knives Out” sequel will only be in theaters for a week, many would love to be the first to watch it long before it hits Netflix. Moreover, there will be no worries about whether the movies will be kept in theaters in the second week or not. The theatrical release is primarily for the film to qualify for the Oscars.

When it comes to cinema chains in India, the situation is no different: lack of attendance. The best of the stars, who enjoyed huge success until not so long ago, no longer manages to attract an audience. What suddenly made people wary of going to the movies? One reason is certain, the high admission rates.

The same rates, however, prevailed even earlier, before confinement! Looks like it’s the same lockdown that made people more aware of their money. Imagine 18 months without work, without income, and when you think back, you realize that you spent a few thousand dollars to watch a movie earlier!

In fact, you don’t have to imagine, this has happened to a lot of people: no job, no income! Some are still trying to recover from that 18 month period. And the deterioration in the quality of films, of the entertainment they provide only worsens the situation of the cinema. They can think of spending a few thousand on movies. Yes, once in a while they do, but only on a deserving film, which sadly seems to come only from the South Indian film industry these days.

South Indian dubbed films were considered inferior; people didn’t identify with them or their actors. Surprisingly, no one cares now if it is a dubbed movie and the stars are South Indian actors. If it’s worth watching, they do.

So what are the movie chains doing about it? Did they take any clues from National Cinema Day which they observed on September 24, when all tickets were priced at Rs 75 and audiences flocked to cinemas? Yes, theaters have learned that they have to be reasonable with admission prices, and they have to some extent. Yet their reasonableness reeks of greed.

For the first show, while they are expecting singles and couples, mainly young people, for the first shows, they have reduced the prices, although they are not yet affordable enough. But, as show times shift towards when you’d expect family audiences, ticket prices continue to remain high. This audience spends the money it has earned; those who come to the first show don’t.

So, will Hindi belt cinemas follow the trend set by Netflix in the US with “Glass Onion”? Knowing the management of the Indian multiplex channel, one wonders if they are even considering something similar. They would rather feed their egos than their cinemas.

Remember how an executive of one of the multiplex chains threatened to justify himself when the lock was lifted, and a filmmaker, whose film had been released in theaters just a day before the lock, decided to continue exploiting the movie on OTT? The problem with Indian chain owners is that the people running the business have no interest and are not responsible. Here, your bad decisions do not cry out loud and clear on the stock market, and investors begin to ask questions.

Talk about Indian resilience. OTT feature film content cannot have first release in cinemas as very few filmmakers in India prefer to make feature films for OTT platforms (also they would not be considered crowd pullers by the direction of the cinema, anyway). They prefer to produce web series.

Some movies, “Shershaah,” starring Siddharth Malhotra, for example, that did well on OTT weren’t produced with an OTT release in mind. But, there was no alternative during confinement. The film had a young star who played leading roles in films. OTT movies are made mostly with actors like Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Pankaj Tripathi, etc.

In people’s minds, a feature film is one that is released in theaters. Decades ago, when the video format arrived and people started watching movies on the VCR, many directors ventured into video filmmaking, but there were no takers – nor viewers or purchasers of video rights.

Like Cinema Day’s “single admission rate” policy, theaters won’t be able to follow Netflix’s lead – “Glass Onion”; they will have to find their own way.

Finally, an aside. There is another piece of news that may not excite the cinema leadership in India. A public park in Surat has started screening movies, IPL matches, Pro Kabaddi League and other free programs for the public every night. And popcorn here costs Rs 10 to Rs 20. More than 300 people are reported to enjoy the experience daily; on weekends, when cinemas expect good attendance, the crowd exceeds the 1,000 spectator mark.

This park is a PPP (Public Private Partnership). This is just the beginning and attendance can only increase. Moreover, the authorities of Surat have integrated 20 such parks under the PPP program and a good initiative is not long in coming.