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Hot Takes

Jawahar Sharma

As cinemas opened around the world and theatre capacity restrictions started to end in 2021, we saw the industry start to take a big sigh of relief but was something changing for the worse for independent films?
For the last 2 years while the pandemic has raged globally the major Studios around the world had no choice but to delay their pipeline of films and wait for things to normalize. This meant a huge stockpile of films and a future release calendar which would be so full that films would not get breathing space. That coupled with the fact that the independent film audience, which is largely mature, older and more up market has kept away from cinemas adopting a cautious approach adding to the woes of the independent film producers and distributors worldwide.

Welcome to the 2022 Omicron world, and déjà vu, that is exactly what continues. It sure looks as if the days of the independent film getting adequate theatrical space in the domestic markets and the global specialty markets is over, at least that is the case for the near future.

For the independents which so heavily depended on the global specialty markets to perform and give the film a healthy worldwide box office which would then lead into TV sales, the world has changed 360 degrees. Suddenly, there hasn't been enough audience and theatrical shelf space available and additionally there also is a continuous dance to be done between theatrical distribution and VOD opportunities. It is the permutation and combination of this dilemma playing out today in every territory which makes the distribution strategy for these films as complicated and cryptic as the bitcoin!

Long standing film distribution models and relationships are being tested and the divide between all the stakeholders at play has never been so sharp.
What we have is a scenario where Independents over the next couple of years will start to relook at the economics of independent cinema and devise distribution strategies that are more skewed towards releasing films directly on VOD with very limited to no theatrical engagements with extremely limited P&A spends in some key markets, if at all.

Having said that, this time around do not be surprised if the independent cinema folks come back stronger, leaner and without the burdens of heavy P&A bills which will make the category more attractive from an ROI (return on investment) perspective and give the audience more creative and hi concept content!

As they say, “it is all about the audience!”

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