The movie industry is witnessing change that is rapid and sometimes brutal. For the trade, it’s either sink or swim.
It’s been 14 years since I officially forayed into Bollywood. Among the few professionals to have had the privilege of a 360-degree exposure to the entire value chain of filmmaking (production-marketing- distribution), I’ve witnessed a radical metamorphosis in several areas. In my opinion, these are the most significant changes; some for better and some for…
Decline Of The Uk Market And Rapid Emergence Of The Uae: With the introduction of the loyalty card and aggressive driving down of sharing percentages by mainline exhibitors, cinema revenues from the UK have rapidly dwindled. It doesn’t help that the UK audience has failed to evolve in terms of its acceptance of new-age content. It is stuck in a time warp. Conversely, the UAE market, while draconian from a censorship perspective, has demonstrated that loved movies can clock truly staggering numbers.
Change In Running Time Of Movies: Better sense appears to have prevailed on filmmakers, with most of them embracing the importance of a crisp running time. The attention span of the audience has swiftly reduced, compelling the smarter makers to wrap their stories within 120-130 minutes as opposed to the over 150 minutes taken in yesteryear. Also, a shorter film means more shows, and also, perhaps, less scope for criticism!
Sky-Rocketing Talent Salaries: Extortionate talent salaries resulting in a substantially increased cost of production has rendered most films financially unviable. While the below-the-line costs have remained more or less in control, it’s the above-the-line costs that have sounded the death knell of filmmaking. The need to link talent salaries with box-office performance is crucial to the sustenance of the industry.
Death Of Sequels: There was a time when a sequel was a guarantor of box-office success. When the trend started in Bollywood more than a decade ago, every sequel worth its salt scored an ace. But recent years have shown that subsequent editions/ installments of a franchise do not necessarily work if they aren’t as strong as (or stronger than) the original. While some makers have had the grace to fold up several franchises as a result, some others continue to flog dead franchises, hoping for a miracle to take place.
Satellite Competing With Digital: During the satellite boom, filmmakers cashed out with inflated sums from television channels that were flush with new funding. The game of one-upmanship between channels saw producer bottom-lines flourishing. The game has changed now, as most television companies have become increasingly selective about the kind o f content they wish to acquire. Fancy slate deals have gone out o f fashion as channels cherry-pick what they believe will work for their viewers. Furthermore, the arrival of deep-pocketed players like Amazon and Netflix has, in some cases, resulted in digital premieres of films with satellite channels reduced to doing secondary telecasts.
Acceptance Of ‘Social’ And ‘Real’ Cinema: Call it a phase, if you must, but movies chronicling real personalities (biopics) and also those touching upon real and relatable issues and incidents are currently the box office darlings. Several examples prove the point: No One Killed Jessica, Toilet – Ek Prem Katha, Paan Singh Tomar, Talwar, Airlift, Rustom, Neerja, Pink, Dangal and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag.
Arrival Of An Alternative Menu: ‘Small is big’ is the mantra to ensconce itself in Bollywood. Back in the day, one wouldn’t imagine brave films like Love Sex Aur Dhokha, Ragini MMS, Ragini MMS 2, Lipstick Under My Burkha, Vicky Donor, Dum Laga Ke Haisha, Tere Bin Laden, Happy Bhaag Jaayegi, Pyaar Ka Punchnama and Phas Gaya Re Obama, to name only a few, to receive the time of day from the audience. However, with the rapidly changing audience profile, small but high-concept films, if adequately and correctly marketed, have been finding more favor with cine-goers than their big daddy counterparts.
A word of caution: There has also been a spate of small films that have tanked at the box office. It is imperative for makers to realise that ‘small’ does not mean ‘niche’ and/or ‘esoteric’. Also, that small films need to be supported by an aggressive and well-thought-out marketing campaign to derive a share of the voice in the clutter.
Content Is More Than ‘King’: The most significant and relevant change has been the death of so-called ‘safe set-ups’. Nothing is necessarily safe any more. A supposedly big banner and director might help only from a pre-sales perspective but these elements have little or no bearing at the box office. The audience has repeatedly chosen a sincere and passionately made high-content film over a star-studded bonanza, and this trend will show no sign of reversal. Studios, producers and actors who take a leap of faith and discard archaic industry myths and mind-sets will be the only beneficiaries of this welcome revolution.
8 big changes in Bollywood, Tanuj Garg, Industry veteran and Managing Partner – Ellipsis Entertainment