Digital Rights – Dangerous than Piracy and Online Reviews to Tollywood
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The 1990s – mid-2000s is the golden age of Telugu Film Industry (TFI) after the NTR – ANR – SVR era. Post the mid-2000s, say from 2005 onwards, Piracy became the nightmare of Telugu Film Industry. The producers, directors, and heroes had to come forward and requested the people to go to theatres to watch films and not on pirated movie CDs. Things did not end there. Towards 2010, internet suddenly expanded. From a mere 96 Kbps speed, users were able to access speeds over 1 Mbps. And even smartphones became cheaper, making videography a routine thing. This took digital piracy to an all new level. One could watch movies on few websites within a day of their release. With strict regulations in place in movie theatres and constant surveillance on websites, the digital piracy came down slightly. Adding to this comes the Digital Rights.
From the past couple of years, the producers are receiving handsome checks from video-streaming services like Amazon Prime Video and Yupp TV for the digital rights. Previously, the audience got to see a movie in these video streaming services after 3-4 months. Given the competition among these players, the moves are available even within a month now.
Classic Examples and the Future
The best example is MCA – Middle Class Abbayi, starring Nani, Sai Pallavi, and Bhumika Chawla. Even before one month since its release (on 21 December 2017), the movie became available on Amazon Prime Video. Even the Horror – comedy flick, ‘Raju Gari Gadhi – 2’ was available on Amazon Prime video within a month of its theatrical release
The impact of Digital Rights may not be imminent on the Telugu Film Industry. Surely with time, it is going to engulf the whole concept of movie watching experience in movie theatres. It will not be surprising if Web series’ completely overtake feature films in the coming future. This whole procedure can be broken into three phases:
- Affect on Movie Theatres in Rural areas – Phase 1
- Endangering the existence of Movie Theatres – Phase 2
- Wiping out Telugu Film Industry – Phase 3
Affect on Movie Theatres in Rural areas
Even if the movie is available on online (legally), it may not bother the producer, who often pockets lump sum by selling theatrical rights, audio rights, satellite and digital rights. But the theatre owners are complaining about this situation. If the film fares well at the box-office and has some good content, one can expect good (crowd) turnouts until the 60th day of the film. The revenue earned from 4th week onwards directly goes to the distributor (or the cinema hall owner).
Even if the film fails at the box-office, the decent turnouts are expected, if the movie has their favorite hero or heroine. Someway or the other, the theatre owners and distributors ensure they get their back their investment at a minimal loss.
With the video streaming services like Amazon Prime Video, Yupp and even few YouTube Channels into play, the theatre owners (and distributors) are losing decent income. The owners of theatres in villages rural areas are victims of corroding window-ticket revenues. Insider sources say that if they’re a short span between the theatrical release and online streaming, the producer is expected to rake in more revenue during the contractual agreement with the video streaming service players.
A hit movie can have a run up to 175 days to 365 days in rural areas, depending on the crowd turnout. Similarly, even if the movie fails, the movie can still run for a minimum of 50 days in most of the cases.
The ‘digital rights’ might bring more cash in the producer’s account, but are definitely corroding the ticket-window sales in the case of orthodox movie theatres. Shockingly, MCA is still running decently (and strongly) in few regions, and faring better than Sankranti releases like Agnyaathavaasi and Jai Simha.
Endangering the existence Movie Theatres
So how does this endanger the existence of movie theatres in Tier-III cities, Tier-II cities and metropolitan cities? This is a common question in everyone’s mind. But the answer lies in the mere fact that, faster you get to see a movie on online, less is its life on the silver screen. Amazon Inc. finds India as the most lucrative market for retail and video streaming business. Additionally, other big-time players are eyeing the Indian market. With Venture Capitalists pumping in millions of dollars in this industry, digital rights are likely to fetch more than theatrical rights in the near future.
Digital rights have their own edge of conventional theatres. Apart from enjoying the movie from the comfort of your home, we can get to watch our favorite star’s film the day it releases. One need not scramble for last-minute tickets, or end up paying astronomical prices for premier show tickets.
‘Digital Rights’ Benefits to Producers – Free from ‘Piracy’ and ‘Reviews’
Moreover, the concept of digital rights completely eliminates various middlemen like buyers, distributors and theatre owners. All the producer needs to do is to agree for a common price with the video streaming service. The question of low-price for a theatrical release in particular regions will no more exist in the film industry. It completely becomes the service provider’s responsibility, once the producer transfers digital rights, in handling issue of piracy. Additionally, the problem of ‘reviews’ also hardly impact the producer’s pocket. The producer need not spend large chunks of money for promoting the film on various platforms like electronic media and social media and carry out promotional events.
Digital Rights – A Boon to Small-time Filmmakers
Digital rights are certainly a blessing to small-time filmmakers, who often invest their hard-earned money into filmmaking. Film reels from these small filmmakers often end up stacking up in the color labs, with hardly any theatres coming forward to exhibit their film. The concept of Digital Rights also increases competition between films, irrespective of the star cast.
With time, the digital video streaming services will completely overtake movie theatres, bringing more profits to the producer, and fewer hassles of watching a film to the audience.
Wiping out Telugu Film Industry
So, how can digital rights be responsible for wiping out Telugu film industry? In recent times, many actors and directors are turning towards other forms of filmmaking, like web series’ and short films. If the video streaming services promise a hefty payment to individual filmmakers, then what is the need for someone to come up with a feature film? In comparison to a feature film, the stakes on a web-series are much lower. Even if an episode in the web-series backfires, the filmmaker still has an opportunity to come up with something better in the forthcoming episode. That is not the case with a feature film. It is extremely difficult to keep the audience engaged for in the case of a 2hr feature film. But it is much easier to keep the audience engaged for a 45min – 60min episode of a web-series.
Pay Scale and Production Flexibility
Similarly, the pay scale of an actor is directly dependent on the episode’s success. That is not the case in the film industry. If a given actor manages to shine in big-budget movies, along with star cast, only then his remuneration can be as expected. If not, he might have to struggle to get what he deserves. In the case of web-series, an actor’s pay can highly fluctuate throughout the series. The actor can expect a hike in his pay, if he brings in uniqueness to his character, by coming up with different mannerism and attitude.
In general, it takes a couple of weeks to decide the cast for a future film. Additionally, it can even take a month to two months, to eventually finalize the shooting schedules of a movie. Many films don’t go beyond the casting stage, given the tedious nature of the job. A web-series usually has a principal cast of 4 to 6 actors. Rest of the cast usually works on a weekly basis. This gives the production manager and the director a great extent of freedom.
The experience of watching a movie in-house!
Watching a film in the home, with home theatre arrangement might be great, given the comfort of your home. But one would miss the sheer experience of watching the film on a large screen, with hundreds of spectators lost in the magic of a great movie. We don’t say, every film deserves a watch on the silver screen. But surely, a small screen, particularly the size of a QHD TV, and a home theatre is definitely to not sufficient to experience and witness magic and creativity of a filmmaker.
Just imagine how you feel watching a science fiction movie with a mid-range audio system? With a screen that extends more than your arm’s length? An experience where you find yourself all alone in your room, or with your family? You need many alongside you, to really feel the experience of a great moment.
People’s lives and Telugu Film Industry at stake!
Similarly, theatre owners, especially in the rural areas can sell-off their properties to make some money. Instead of that, they bear the risk of exhibiting a film, so that the common people can watch. Where will the people living in a village watch the movie, if the local theatre stops exhibiting them? Will they spend Rs 400 on traveling, and Rs 100 for the movie ticket in the nearby town? Definitely not. Whether loss or profits, the theatre owners bear. They sell their lives for cinema.
The way multiplexes run in the cities might be different. But at the end of the day, their existence solely depends upon the film’s performance. If a given multiplex suffers from back-to-back losses with low crowd-turnouts, the multiplex might shut down, given the high running costs.
At the end of the day, digital rights bring the luxury of watching a film from home on its first day. But beyond a certain limit, with producers opting to bank on digital rights, the future of Telugu Film Industry is surely dubious.