Amitabh Bachchan, who will be honoured with the Dadasaheb Phalke Award 2019, expressed his concerns over Netflix and Amazon Prime Video taking over movie theatres. He was speaking at the 25th Kolkata International Film Festival.
Expressing concern over the future of movie theatres in the age of digital entertainment, Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan on Friday suggested that films should be released first on big screens and then on online platforms and devices, but cautioned that realistic pricing of tickets and good content were a must to draw people out of their sofas.
“Today, when men and women are toiling in the Indian film industry shoulder to shoulder, we also have several options for viewing content in the comfort of our homes. Yet the thrill of watching movies on the big screen remains unmatched.
“We need to find ways to protect these traditions. I like the idea of pictures first showing in cinema halls, and then, perhaps, going to streaming and other devices. I am a loyalist to that degree,” Bachchan said in a video speech at the closing ceremony of the 25th Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF) here.
Speaking on the role of cinema in the ever-growing digital space, Big B said that as audiences’ tastes fast move to fresh digital content or online streaming, “it would be most worthwhile to draw attention to the core fact that films are primarily made for entertainment, drawing large audiences to the big screen.”
However, he wondered what the future holds in the realm of movie viewing.
“Will the allure of cinema watched in move halls soon become nostalgic memories? Will studios gobble each other up, and smaller movies struggle to survive and big brand titles tank at the box office,” he asked.
He pointed out that digital platforms like Netflix and Amazon are revolutionising the way one watches films, while several other streaming services are also now available in India.
“So what happens next? Can classics like Gone with the Wind or Mughal-e-Azam be watched on the small screen with the same excitement that had originally made them blockbusters? Can the magic of Satyajit Ray’s trilogy or his classic ‘Jalshaghar’ be captured with the same amount of sensitivity on a small laptop or on a mobile phone?
“What about David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia? Can its magnificent panorama be confined to limited digital space,” asked Bachchan, who has been selected for the Indian film’s top honour Dadasaheb Phalke award this year for his contribution to cinema.
However, Bachchan also pointed to some must-dos to ensure that people continue to visit movie theatres, stressing on realistic pricing of tickets and good content.
“Yet, all said and done, watching a film on the big screen must remain enticing and realistically priced. Content must be the undisputed king to draw people out of their sofas on lazy Sunday afternoons,” the actor said.
He said that those involved with film making must also keep a note of the tastes of the knowledgeable modern-day youth.
“Young viewers today have been exposed to international cinema, television, and the arts. They want high-quality entertainment, avenues to satisfy their evolved sensibilities. So we must pledge to give it to them with the same enthusiasm as our early pioneers,” Bachchan added.