There is only OTT demand for critically acclaimed movies, not cinemas. The films nominated for this year’s Oscars are generating buzz, and theatres in most major cities are preparing to show them. Despite the fact that these films have received widespread praise, a review of box office statistics over time reveals that Oscar nominees and other festival favourites rarely find audiences in movie theatres. According to viewership statistics on streaming platforms over the last couple of years, India’s appetite for foreign content is growing. However, according to industry experts. Speakers at a session in Mumbai last month titled “Challenges & Scope of Promoting Festival Films in Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) countries” revealed that there is a distinct difference between the mass-market movies that the Indian audiences prefer watching in the theatres and the award-winning films that they watch on OTT.
‘PEOPLE MOSTLY GO TO CINEMAS TO WATCH MASSY CONTENT’
A cinema business analyst, people typically watch mainstream content in theatres, while niche content is watched on OTT platforms. “It’s important to understand the distinction between moviegoers and cinephiles. Cinephiles, not the average moviegoer, are the ones who enjoy festival favourites. To entice the average moviegoer to the theatres, it needs some big names. The audience for English-language movies is relatively small, but it gets even smaller when it comes to foreign-language movies, he continues.
‘INDIA IS A TOUGH MARKET FOR FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILMS’
India has historically been a difficult market for foreign language films, according to a Deadline report. “The situation has deteriorated during the pandemic when Indian audiences started to expect most films to pop up on OTT platforms and became much choosier about what they’d step out for to watch,” Cinephiles in India want to see a movie after it receives attention at a film festival, according to Impact films distributor Ashwani Sharma. However, it doesn’t always result in moviegoers visiting theatres. A Hero, a recent release from Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, “didn’t receive a great reception,” he said.
‘PEOPLE DON’T WANT TO PAY TO WATCH GOOD CONTENT’
Why is there such reluctance to pay for quality content, asks Sunil Doshi, Producer, Alliance Media & Entertainment? I recall a film at Cannes receiving a 13-minute standing ovation, and I sprinted to secure the rights for its India release. With great passion, we released it in nine Indian metropolises, but hardly 500 people watched it. However, it had a packed house when it screened for free at IFFI and other film festivals.