Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Will digital cinema deliver us good cinema?

Via ContentSutra: Financial Express: Is celluloid fading out?

There is a concerted move by a few companies on in Tamil Nadu to convert cinema theatres into digital capable multiplexes. Cinema theatres in the state with fairly large and valuable real estate were being converted into marriage halls because of lack of sufficient revenues. The digital cinema route could offer fresh lease of life to them.

Apparently 30 or so theatres in the state have already been made digital. This number could increase to 250 or so over the next year.

Another interesting thing is that there are plans to link the theatres through satellite connectivity. With this connectivity in place (basically any existing television channel can use its leased transponders to send digital cinema to all the theatres. The theatres will have to be equipped with the decoders and dish antennae.), the theatres can instantaneously receive new movies over the air, which can be stored and played a few times.

Today 99% of the Tamil films are shit. The producers work hard to please all sections of the population; pay atrocious sums of money to the lead actor (who may be nearing 60, paunchy, bald and generally boring yet can bring in his loyal audience to the theatres), shoot a bunch of songs at expensive and exotic locations from Afghanistan to Antarctic, deploy lavish sets, offer gratuitous sex and comedy ... - in short, everything except a good story. Since Tamil films almost entirely depend on theatrical collections in Tamil Nadu, no one wants to move away from the well-known formulae. In such a scenario, an odd good film here and there ('kaadhal') is all we can hope for.

If multiplexes allow for at least one small sized theatre hall - allowing say 100 people to sit at any given time, such theatres can be used to show niche, small-budget, good films. One can then take the risk of producing good films at a budget of about Rs. 40-60 lakhs. If 200 theatres with a hall capacity of 100 people can show these films at least 10 times, the average collections will be Rs. 1 crore (at Rs. 50 per ticket). This is not enough. The revenue generated should be at least 1.5 crores for all the people involved to break even. But it is getting closer. There is at least a workable business model. Digital filming reduces the cost considerably as well. There is near zero distribution cost. As more digital theatres join in, the cost of distribution goes down even further, while the revenue goes up considerably.

Once people start watching such films, satellite television channels may buy the satellite rights for a few lakhs.

Let us hope this happens. It is quite possible that in the next 2-3 years, more good movies will come up in Tamil.

1 comment:

  1. I havent seen Mumbai Expr, which is I believe the first Tamil movie to use a digital format rather than film. But from some reviews, it seems like the clarity isn't that great. They need to sort out that issue, otherwise viewers wont feel like watching something approaching camera print quality after paying Rs. 50 (or whatever)