On Sunday Nivedita wanted to see Shrek 3. Just 2 weeks after release the film has been shifted to the morning show. It was already past 10 am... which means she would have to wait another week.
By which time the film may have disappeared altogether.
I really wonder when the day will come, when studios will have the sense to have a simultaneous release : Theatre, DVD and Video-on-demand (Tata Sky/ Dish TV etc).
Of course the critics would say we already have simultaneous release - people download films within minutes of official release. More so, young people.
JAM's recent survey on Downloading (which readers of this blog were invited to participate in as well) found that 58% of you download movies off the internet.
23% of this bunch download films... everyday.
Movie downloads are less popular than music (that's something 88% do regularly). But wait and watch. As fast broadband connections become more common, folks get PCs with bigger hard drives and figure out how to use BitTorrents.
There is no way the tide can be turned, the only thing studios can and should do is swim with it.
What are they afraid of?
a) People won't flock to theatres
Wrong! The need to visit a theatre is not linked strictly to the need to watch a film. People need outings. A place to dress up for and do something at. Yes, stuffing one's face with popcorn qualifies.
b) People will still pirate movies
Yes, some will. But there are plenty of people who are not tech savvy. Or happen to be time and energy starved. When an official release reaches a 'reasonable' price point they are willing to pay.
Take VCDs of Hindi films. With prices around Rs 149-169 many many more people are picking them up. The logic is, a ticket would cost me Rs 150-200 in any case.
By contrast, DVDs you think twice before buying. Rs 499 had better be for a movie with keep-in-my-collection value. Today, the official VCD/ DVD release is at least 3-4 weeks after the movie hits theatres, as far as Bollywood is concerned. What if it were within one week?
I think theatre crowd would remain unaffected. But a lot of people who wouldn't make it to theatres anyways would also get to enjoy the film. And not as pirates.
The other - and better - alternative is video on demand. Tata Sky has it - you order a film and can view it in a 24 hour window. But the most recent film available at the moment is Bheja Fry. Which is two months old.
One way to tackle the issue could be time-linked pricing. On a video on demand service you could allow official home viewing from the day the film is released. But, on the first weekend you could charge a premium - say Rs 500 per view.
From Monday onwards that price could be dropped to Rs 300 per view. And from the second weekend onwards, that could drop further.
Would people really pay Rs 500 to watch Jhoom Barabar Jhoom at home the day it's released? I think yes. There is an excitement to watching a film on day 1 and being able to have an opinion on it - good or bad. It's participating in the pop culture of the week.
But maybe you want to watch JBJ without battling the crowds and parking problems at your local multiplex. And without any planning, on impulse, at 2 am.
As everything in life accelerates, so does the half-life of a movie.
Once I've heard from multiple sources that JBJ is 'really bad' you won't get me to see it in a theatre in any case. But there is enough curiosity value to see it... at home. And maybe with my expectations tempered and over dus rupaye ka Act II popcorn I may actually find it to be 'okay'.
The movie experience I expect when I blow up good money in a multiplex is higher than what I expect from something I see in my home. Which is a huge opportunity for producers of films that are average to above average. The 'great' ones will always find a big screen audience.
Bottom line is, the thought of losing 'theatre business' scares the shit out of producers. But they're losing it to piracy anyways.
I may end up watching Shrek 3 on TV after 3 months when you could have got me to pay 200 bucks to watch it in my home last Sunday. Cannibilisation is hard, but the alternative... is slow suicide.