“Nothing in the world causes so much misery as uncertainty.” The famous lines of Martin Luther ring loud in today’s Covid inflicted world, especially for the cinema business. Many businesses have been hit by these unforeseen circumstances, but inspite of repeated attempts to draw some reliefs in policies & procedures, the movie business has hit the toughest wall that is seemingly proving hardest to break.

With theaters shut to avoid Covid spread, opening every now and then with a blink of hope, the traditional box office movie mantra seems to have become a thing of the past. One assumed the scenario would change for good soon, but with one Covid strike after another, the new normal rings an ominous bell for many in the cinema business.

It’s starpower that pulls audience to cinema, however, over the past one year or so, the biggest of stars, the likes of Akshay Kumar and Salman Khan, have opted for OTT premieres to cut loss and uncertainty.

So, what’s the future of movie business in India? It is dead or can resurrect like a Phoenix? IWMBuzz spoke to few trade experts to fathom a possible answer. Read on:

“At the moment, the situation is a bit too uncertain for anyone to understand what’s happening. A lot of filmmakers have had no option but to directly release in movies on OTT whereas some makers have still held onto their project closely and waiting for an ideal time to release it in theatres. Cost-cutting is absolutely essential and it’s a must. It has to happen from the top level. From the producers to the moneylenders and actors, they all have to help each other. An A-lister charges somewhere between 40-60% of the entire film’s budget. Everybody needs to chip in and help each other to bail themselves out of this situation. Every movie has a budget and in testing times like these, one simply can’t afford to go over-budget in any way. As far as revenue model is concerned, yes I feel there will be a new revenue model. But we don’t really know how things will fall into place. It’s too early to comment on that. As far as my experience is concerned, it’s not a very rosy picture ahead. The journey is full of thorns. Having said that, cost-cutting has to be the way in the near future and all we can hope is that situation gets better soonest since nothing beats the charm of a theatrical experience,” said Taran Adarsh.

We also got in touch with film trade analyst and Editor-in-chief of Film Information Komal Nahta who too shared his expertise with us on the subject.

“The situation right now is absolutely unpredictable for anyone. As of now, what I see is everyone is making films based on the old model where the primary intention is to release it in cinemas and later after 4 weeks of 8 weeks, a release on OTT, satellite etc. As far as budgeting is concerned, yes efforts will be made to reduce unnecessary costs but I don’t see that happening beyond 5-7%. Like for example, a movie with a budget of 100 crores can’t be suddenly made in 40 crores. That’s not possible. And even if someone tries to do remotely something closer to that, how do they plan that 4 months down the line or 8 months down the line when the film is scheduled for release, theatres will be open or shut? So some unnecessary crores here and there will be reduced but beyond that, it is not possible. Everyone who’s making a film wants to release it first in theatres and then OTT. Nobody wants a film to directly release on OTT. In that way, they would be making a web series. As far as my understanding says, until and unless there’s some clarity about the situation, producers and filmmakers will have to play the waiting game. And if they can’t do that since they already have dates from actors etc, then they will have to minimize costs in possible ways so that the splurging part can atleast be avoided. But as of now, everything is about a lot of permutations and combinations. You can only plan when you know what’s going to happen. Otherwise, it’s really difficult.”

Veteran director R. Balki, who’s highly reputed for critically acclaimed movies like Paa, Cheeni Kum, Pad Man & many more, added his valuable knowledge on the subject saying, “It’s not that we spend lavishly to shoot a film. The budget of shooting is never that big. But the end cost is high because rightfully, big actors demand they be paid for the pull they have. And that’s the biggest cost in most bigger films. Unless the actors decide to reduce the cost, I see very little chances of cost significantly coming down.”

We also sought the valuable opinion of National-Award-winning filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar, who’s known for some critically-acclaimed movies like Heroine, Fashion, Chandni Bar, Page 3 & he added, “The film industry is going through a really difficult phase. Filmmakers are having a tough time and the uncertainty around the situation is really bothering everyone. After November last year, when cinemas opened for some time, we all had a positive thought that good times are back. I myself shot for my new movie India Lockdown after January and luckily by God’s blessings, I finished my shoot on time. However, some filmmakers who also started shooting like me then with the same intention haven’t finished their film yet and now they are stuck. As a filmmaker, I can feel their pain. I am in touch with a lot of exhibitors and they tell me that the cinemas aren’t opening up soon. People are frightened and for us, movie making has become a challenge. Earlier, we all used to have a time frame set where we would mentally decide that by this time we finish shoot then post-production and then finally release. But now, we can’t do anything. At a time like this, if at all anything can be done for the future, cost-cutting has to be done. People have to believe in teamwork and help each other out of this trouble. We can’t afford to be selfish since that won’t be good for the industry. A lot of cost-cutting has to be done and budgeting will become a primary focus since we don’t know the fate of our films. As far as the revenue model is concerned, I feel we all need to collectively think about it and be on the same page and see what works and what doesn’t. But as far as my understanding goes, OTT is the way to go since theatres will take time to open. Big films can still wait but the mid-budget movies are the ones that are in a fix. That’s why we saw many films releasing on OTT directly since last year. Having said that, all these things like cost-cutting and thinking of ways to maximize revenue in this situation isn’t as easy as it sounds. We will take time to adapt. I am hoping that other filmmakers who are also waiting like me for the cinemas to open can release their films because we have a vision and as filmmakers, we want to do justice with our audience and give them the best experience.”

Keep reading IWMBuzz.com.