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Saturday, April 17, 2021

Movies are returning to theatres but will audiences follow?

Watching cinema and content is my livelihood, and also my lifeblood, but that does not necessarily include a cinema hall anymore.

Written by Sampada Sharma | New Delhi |
Updated: March 26, 2021 8:18:12 am
cinema halls reopenAfter not visiting a cinema hall for more than a year, I don't think I will ever be visiting a cinema hall the way I did before. (Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal)

It’s been over a year since coronavirus became the focal point of our lives. The lockdown had us re-evaluating our priorities, work-life balance and, in a time where the entire world seemed like a death trap, losing ourselves in warm embrace of TV shows and movies available in the safety of our homes.

I once believed that the escapism and anonymity offered by a dark theatre was the reason we loved going to the movies. When the lights dimmed and the screen came on, we could disconnect from our real-life struggles and get invested in a fantasy world. Post-lockdown, I have come to realise that the idea to ‘escape’ has more to do with our state of mind, and not the theatre which might be bustling with kids who run up and down the stairs all through the runtime of a film.

theatres reopening Cinema halls are yet to operate at full capacity nation wide. (Express Photo by Abhinav Saha)

After not visiting a cinema hall for more than a year, I don’t think I will be visiting a cinema hall the way I did before.

The last film I watched before things started to get scary was Imtiaz Ali’s Love Aaj Kal, which was infuriating in itself, but that’s the story for another day. Up until that point, I was watching an average of four movies per month at the cinema hall and even if they were forgettable, they gave me an excuse to get out of the rut of my mundane existence. Even if the film was underwhelming, I would go back the next week hoping for something better, and often returned disappointed. This year of staying in has given me a chance to pause and inspect this part of my life that required me to invest a lot of time and money and so far, I can’t convince myself to return to the theatres in the same way.

The authorities and film industry folks are all talking about safety precautions in cinema halls and how normalcy should return even as audience wonder if a film is worth risking our lives? However, that is a conundrum for the Covid times, what happens in the post-coronavirus world?

I remember watching Baahubali: The Conclusion in a packed theatre in central Delhi at 9 a.m. on the day of its release and it was the most exhilarating experience of my life. Watching Thanos snap his fingers and the entire theatre gasp in unison was another exhilarating moment that is lodged in my memory. However, these moments of wonder have been few and far between. To bring us to theatres in a post-pandemic world where money is tight, the filmmakers will have to up their game. Bigger, better, more bang for our buck… the question is how will they lure us to the silken darkness of theatres after we have gotten used to the comfort and convenience of our home screens?

thanos snap photos avengers infinity war Avengers Infinity War was an experience for the audience.

Movies are not a fad. They are supposed to be timeless pieces of art that are meant to be treasured for generations. If they don’t have the shelf life of, say a month, are they even worth our time?

We live in a world of OTT platforms where a film released 10 years ago might turn into your latest obsession because you just discovered it. There is no hurry in consuming content because there is no expiry date on it, unlike a theatre that stops playing the film after a few weeks. The newer films are all available for streaming merely a month after their theatrical release and I honestly don’t mind waiting a month to catch something at my convenience.

The past year has helped us all learn newer things about ourselves and for our journey in the post-coronavirus world, where nothing will ever stay the same as before, this has been my learning so far. Watching cinema and content is my livelihood, and also my lifeblood, but that does not necessarily include a cinema hall anymore.

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