From the times of touring talkies, Tamil cinema has reached the days of OTT passing through big theatres and multiplexes. Though the screens have changed, Tamil films have retained their audience, especially youth. Though cinema has been affected by VCD and film websites, it has survived to be the most popular medium. The sudden Covid-19 pandemic led to the closure of cinema theatres for many months and producers were forced to release their movies on OTT platform. The big question is whether cinema theatres will survive the onslaught of OTT platforms. What kind of impact this new platform will have on films? Will all the film-makers turn towards OTT? Will theatres continue to survive? Will film making undergo a transformation due to the new platform?
When DTH was getting popular in the country, actor Kamal Haasan threatened to release his film ‘Viswaroopam’ through it. It created a big tussle in the film industry and finally Kamal released the film in theatres. During the lockdown due to Covid, the film ‘Ponmagal Vandhal’ was released on OTT after facing a few hurdles. The age of OTT cinema commenced with this film release.
However, it is the movie buff who decides where he will watch the film. When a family, young lovers, or a group of friends want to go out, cinema theatres still remain an important option for them. Watching a film in theatres is a unique experience with its big screen, loud applause, the noisy whistles and big crowd.
Despite the arrival of several platforms, theatres alone could create mega stars, not only in acting but in music and direction. The big screen image of a star helps the marketing of a film on OTT. Actress Jyotika’s ‘Ponmagal Vandhaal’ could have gone for a reasonable price, but the prestige and impact of releasing the same film in theatres is certainly more. The OTT firms may give a good price to release new films till they gain a brand image. But, once they acquire a brand name, they will weigh the commercial benefits of releasing a film and start decreasing the rates.
Films of top stars like Vijay and Ajithkumar are sure to make waves when released on OTT platform. Some of the films which are made to suit this platform cannot be viewed in theatres. There is a separate audience, who will not move away from the comfort of their homes and view movies on OTT only. Even if films are not released on OTT, they will not choose to visit theatres.
Due to the rising costs of film making, the number of producers choosing the option of OTT may go up in future. A unique group of actors and directors may start dominating the platform. But their ultimate aim will be to hit the silver screens of multiplexes. If they continue to function for the new platform, they will lose their value. At a certain point of time, they will have to prove themselves in cinemas released in theatres to survive on OTT platform.
At OTT platforms, serials running for more than one hour have a large audience. But, they have failed to cause a bigger effect and there is not much creativity in such web series. Most of them rely on bedroom scenes and obscene dialogue for their success. There are no novel attempts and some of them, for a change, go for real life history of popular personalities.
When a family, young lovers, or a group of friends want to go out, cinema theatres still remain an important option for them. Watching a film at theatres is a unique experience with its big screen, loud applause, the noisy whistles and big crowd.
There is a need to improve the taste of OTT audience. But there are no real creators or innovators to achieve it on this platform. At the moment, OTT is dependent on cinema in India. But, in future, the OTT firms may turn out to be theatre owners or producers of big budget movies.
But release of films through theatres alone can produce stars. So far, Tamil cinema has survived despite the arrival of television, home theatres, OTT and online websites. Tamil cinema will survive in future too and go on innovating itself.
Though, malls had brought more audience to theatres, they are charging exorbitant rates and the parking charges collected in theatres are high. Besides, booking tickets through online too has become costly.
Though no one will buy anything in such malls if they are not located in theatres, they are fleecing the fans without any qualms. The film producers must prevent such things to improve footfall in theatres.
While there is no doubt that theatres will survive the onslaught of OTT, the number of films released in theatres may come down. Both will flourish with a separate set of audience, ultimately helping the growth of Tamil cinema.