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'The New Normal' In The Film Industry

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'The New Normal' In The Film Industry

Abhayanand Singh, CEO, Golden Ratio Films & Chairperson, Sg. SAIFF, 0

COVID-19 dominated the year. It brought businesses globally to a grinding halt. But in a lot of ways it was a year of dichotomy wherein on one hand, we witnessed the highest level of consumption of content on the demand side considering everybody was confined to their homes, on the other hand, the supply of content was hit with the stalling of film and TV productions, web-series and cancellation of live events due to the lockdown. This resulted in reduced revenue for the traditional businesses like theatres and live events but increased monetization for digital platforms and new models emerging out with respect to the distribution of content. And the bigger challenge was that nobody knew for sure, how long this will last.

Production houses took time to understand the situation and got to the drawing board to put together a way forward. Restarting stalled shoots, creating sets, bringing the artists together while maintaining due protection from Covid took centre-stage. The bigger challenge – budgeting and packaging of content, insurance against unforeseen events and the decision on monetization.

When it comes to funding of film projects, production work, or documentaries a huge investment is required and the scenario made it difficult to assess the feasibility of a project at initiation. Producers complete a suitable and sufficient risk assessment to re-engage with investors, artists and staff before commencing production. The industry now makes an intelligent use of the existing knowledge base, increasing use of technology in editing, legal advice on scripts and makes contractual agreements right at the start.

What next?
Backlog of releases – The opening of films will be done in phases – limited shows or limited sales of tickets per show or distanced seating would be made a norm. The focus will be on the kind of target audience watching a film as compared to the number in the earlier situation.

An experience – Consumers will now pick and choose content they would want to spend their money on. With OTT platforms bringing in new content regularly with the
comfort of a home, a movie will have to rely on an extraordinary experience rather than a tentpole film with a bigger canvas.

Maintaining the required regulations – Theatres will have to focus on sanitisation, distanced seating and other preventive measures to gain a consumers’ trust and ensure their safety in the process. Cross-allocation of seats is one measure. Another measure can be to programme the shows in such a manner that entries, intermissions and exits of two shows do not occur simultaneously will help in avoiding a crowd.

Sets and shoots – The number of people on a set will be reduced for some time and the health precautions on a set will increase. Events are going to be most hit, but like the world is already witnessing, these will shift to the virtual space. It is a labour intensive industry and thus hygienic conditions will be an uphill task.

Content – Given a rise in demand for content and increasing viewership, and the halts in production of new content, existing content is likely to become more valuable, and in time may increase competition not only for existing film and television libraries, but also for all new content. To meet the demand for content, the industry may see increased partnerships between domestic and international media companies, leading to a rise in acquisition of foreign language content, and distribution of localised versions of such foreign content to suit different segments of the domestic audience.

Financing – This has knock-on effects for production. COVID-19 has made movie financing more risky, due to increased health security and insurance costs. Independent studios may find it harder to raise capital. This could have the unintended consequence of reducing diversity of movie content – a fear developing for a while now.

Movies are a massive value creator. Global box office revenues totalled $42 billion last year – an all-time high – contributing almost one-third of the estimated $136 billion in the value of worldwide movie production and distribution. The coronavirus pandemic has upended the content pipeline, halting film production and closing cinemas. Normality is slowly resuming; production has restarted in some countries and the industry has adopted remote-work protocols where possible. But the virus creates uncertainty, and the biggest short-term risk seems to be consumers’ dwindling confidence in physical venues.

Having said so, with the news of vaccines coming up from different parts of the world, there seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel and like they say in entertainment, ‘the show must go on’.

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