Bollywood faces horror show at box office as viewers shift to streaming services – Films & TV | Techno Glob


India’s Bollywood film industry, long part of the cultural fabric of the film-crazy country of 1.4 billion people, is facing its biggest crisis yet as streaming services and non-Hindi language rivals steal its shine.

The film giant produces an average of 1,600 films a year, more than any other country, traditionally headed by glitzy Bollywood, with fans worshiping movie stars like gods and crowds flocking to premieres.

But now cinemas have gone quiet, even in Bollywood’s nerve center Mumbai, with box office receipts falling ever since the Covid-19 lockdown was lifted. “This is the worst crisis we have had to face,” said Mumbai theater owner Manoj Desai. Some screenings were canceled as “the public wasn’t there”.

The normally bankable megastar Akshay Kumar had three films back to back. Fellow A-lister Aamir Khan, the face of some of India’s most successful films, failed to woo audiences with the Forrest Gump remake, Lal Singh Chadha.

Of the more than 50 Bollywood films released last year – fewer than usual due to the pandemic – only a fifth met or exceeded revenue targets, said Karan Torani, media analyst at Elara Capital. Pre-pandemic it was 50 percent.

In contrast, many Telugu-language aka Tollywood films – a South Indian rival to Hindi-language Bollywood – have risen to the top.

Embarrassingly, Hindi-language films from January to August last year took almost half of the box-office take from the South, dubbed the South’s bid, State Bank of India’s chief economic adviser, Soumya Kanti Ghosh, said in a recent report. “Bollywood, after decades of storytelling…seems to be at an inflection point unlike any other obstacle before it,” Ghosh wrote.

Out of touch

Bollywood, like other film industries, has been affected by the rise of streaming, which began before the pandemic but stalled when millions of Indians were forced indoors.

Almost half of India’s population has access to the Internet and streaming services, including international players such as Netflix, Amazon Prime And Disney + Hitstar, There are 96 million subscriptions, according to a government estimate.

Some of the films released during the Covid shutdown went straight to these platforms, while others hit the small screens just weeks after debuting in theaters.

With streaming monthly subscriptions at or below the cost of a single ticket — 100-200 rupees ($1.20-$2.50) at single-screen cinemas and more at multiplexes — price-sensitive audiences were avoiding theaters, analysts said.

Times have been so tough that INOX and PVR, India’s two largest multiplex operators, announced their merger in March to “create scale”.

Meanwhile, subscribers were exposed to local and international streaming content, including southern Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam and Kannada-language films that already had legions of local fans.

“Regional cinema did not travel beyond its borders. But now suddenly everyone is watching Malayalam cinema or Maharashtrian cinema and then you realize … there are filmmakers who are telling more interesting stories,” said film critic Raja Sen.

Originally published in The Dawn, October 12, 2022



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