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No Substitute For Silver Screen

Online streaming has its benefits but a movie is not a movie till you’ve seen it on the big screen


The movie theatre business is alive and innovating. With the industry adapting constantly to deliver new experiences to consumers, the pendulum is slowly swinging to a time of quality, curated movie-watching experiences.

Something’s happening for sure! You can call it transition… and it’s not happening to just the movie theatre business. It’s happening to the entertainment industry as a whole.

Streaming services have changed the way we consume television and have put the entertainment industry to the test. New content, affordability, convenience and a host of options are some of the factors that online streaming services offer to draw in consumers.

How will these services affect movie theatres? Do these platforms threaten the revered institution of the cinema hall? Not likely. Not just yet.

Every weekend, consumers are faced with a choice – stay holed up in their homes to binge-watch or get out there and experience a blockbuster spectacle wrapped enticingly in up-to-date technology, great picture quality and surround sound.

For movie theatres, the competition has always come from sporting and entertainment events, live music concerts, pubs and nightclubs. Piracy and box office flops have been the major factors that have negatively affected the business.

While streaming services have changed the way we consume television content, cinema is different. Movies are what you would call mass art because they are created on a mass scale for a mass audience. This holds true even for movies that are exhibited on the festival and art-cinema circuits.

Now let’s try and rewrite this equation. What happens to that art when we begin to remove people from part of the equation? What do you think will happen to the collective promise which is most of the time is a fantasy at best?

A movie experience that comprises isolated figures chained to their living room couches with food and beverages delivered via an online food portal to keep them company… while that image may be slightly exaggerated, it does not encapsulate what online streaming is about nor does it state an absolute opinion.

It merely is to convey that the movie theatre business is a growing, vibrant industry and one of the few growing channels the studios have for their products right now.

A streaming service provider’s success relies on their ability to offer their subscriber base the best entertainment content, much of which would include original programming. Many leading streaming service providers have taken on the moniker of a movie studio, producing movies for their subscriber base and to attract new consumers. It’s interesting to see the varied degrees of success that these providers have had, based on their approach.

Certain streaming service providers who’ve insisted on releasing their movies online and in movie theatres at the same time have irked and faced a backlash from the movie theatre industry, finding very few exhibiting partners who would support them.

This damaged the awards ambitions the providers had for their critically acclaimed films too. In stark contrast, the providers who decided to work with movie theatres and follow the traditional process of releasing a movie in cinema halls for 90 to 120 days before it was made available to their subscribers online not only found success during award season but also collected from an additional revenue stream.

It is important to note that the foray of streaming service providers into the production of original movies has given a voice to not just independent cinema but also new and niche storytellers who otherwise would have had difficulty in getting their movies made.

The rise of streaming service providers has most certainly defined television’s renaissance, with many even dubbing this the golden age of the small screen. This, however, has had very little impact on the movie theatre business.

The exhibition industry has seen over a century of evolution, remaining always at the forefront of innovation and technology. Bigger screens, customised food and beverage offerings, luxury settings and new technology are some of the elements they’ve incorporated to ensure that consumers keep coming back for more. Over the years, in fact, the exhibition industry has been subject to the same kinds of transformations as airports and sports stadiums: offering a better experience at different price points.

Streaming service providers have successfully recreated for television the global village effect that theatres have been creating for movies for over 100 years. However, unlike the movie theatre industry, an online service cannot create or host a colossal movie event to celebrate storytelling and entertainment in all of the lavish splendour it is meant to be experienced in.

Every year, there are a dozen core blockbuster movies that tend to create those events. They’re like the anchors of the calendar year.

The movie theatre business is not without its challenges. Consumers have become increasingly picky, constantly analysing the value of their experience proportionate to their expenditure. It puts the movie theatre industry under intense pressure to deliver an entertainment experience at a valued price point.

Five years ago, watching a film in a theatre used to be the sign of a luxurious lifestyle for the multiplex audience; it has become a vital part of daily life now. Carnival is deeply rooted in Tier II and Tier III cities, offering a better cinema experience at pocket-friendly ticket prices to the masses.

China is a classic example of a country having worked towards the betterment of the entertainment industry as a whole. It has around 38,000 cinema screens now. We also have huge potential in the cinema industry and there are enormous opportunities to explore in urban and rural regions, as we have just 2,500 multiplex screens across the country and more than 1,000 films released every year in India.

At Carnival Cinemas, our unique offering MoviEcard fits in perfectly with our vision of making movies accessible to every Indian. Over the years we have noticed that while people would like to enjoy a great film at the nearest cinema hall, regular ticket prices can act as a deterrent. Priced at just `149 with a 30-day validity, MoviEcard aims to break the entry barrier and allow all our patrons to enjoy as many movies as they wish to watch at the cost of ONE MOVIE TICKET, across 234 screens in 84 locations over 66 select cities in India.

In order to be able to give this benefit to patrons all over the country, we have achieved the milestone of having a presence in 100 cities in India and are increasing our footprint rapidly. We aim to hit 1,000 screens by 2018.

Streaming service providers use extensive research and database information to analyse and curate only the best entertainment content for their consumers. This is an important element that the movie theatre industry can factor in, while constantly evolving to provide the best consumer experience.

Streaming services form part of the home entertainment ecosystem, an ecosystem that has been able to co-exist with the movie theatre business.

But there’s definitely something about that big screen that penetrates people in a very different kind of way.

(Written by Dr Shrikant Bhasi, founder and chairman of Carnival Group, Carnival Cinemas)

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