Home / Industry / Media /  Why niche foreign films struggle in theatres post covid

With discerning cinema audiences having moved online for entertainment during covid pandemic, smaller, niche films in several international languages are struggling to find takers in cinemas. These include small scale Hollywood films or movies from Korea and Iran that were originally popular in the big metros like Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bengaluru and could make up to Rs. 1 crore from their release in theatres.

Theatre chains and distribution companies said while films such as Ticket to Paradise, Elvis, Don’t Worry Darling and Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris haven’t attracted viewers in the past few weeks, they will continue to bring these small, acclaimed foreign films to India, with interest expected to peak especially around the Oscar season early next year.

“After the pandemic, independent foreign cinema hasn’t worked to the extent it used to in theatres and we don’t see people as willing to step out for them. Everyone knows these movies will land up on streaming platforms soon enough, if they aren’t already there," said Ashwani Sharma, founder of Impact Films, a company that specialises in distribution of international cinema.

People are willing to come to theatres for large-scale spectacles and not performance-oriented dramas, said Sharma who has seen critically acclaimed titles like Palm Springs (English), A Hero (English and Farsi) and Parallel Mothers (Spanish) fail to generate buzz over the past few months. That wouldn’t have been the case pre-covid, said film trade experts. Millennials are watching content from across the world and are open to films from different genres, said Ashish Kanakia, CEO, MovieMax Cinemas. While superhero films have a loyal audience, people are open to watching non superhero content too, he added.

“Increase in the number of DCI (digital cinema initiative) cinemas has hugely improved the prospects of Hollywood in India, helping films manage wider releases. Plus, the target audience, which is the 15-40 year old, is updated with reviews and feedback on social media," said Rajendar Singh Jyala, chief programming officer at INOX Leisure Ltd said calling animation and horror a huge draw in India, despite the overwhelming popularity of superhero films. DCI is a joint venture of several film studios, including Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, 20th Century Fox, Universal Studios, Walt Disney Co. and Warner Bros, to set up a common set of requirements that ensure a high and uniform standard of digital cinema viewing.

Adult dramas in international languages have always been targeted at specific pockets in metros such as Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad besides a few other cities such as Pune, Ahmedabad and parts of Noida, said Denzil Dias, managing director, Warner Bros. Pictures, India. “These films also don’t release the same day and date in India as other parts of the world and there’s effort that goes into selecting release dates and show timings for them," Dias said.

The trend of smaller international films no longer finding an audience stems from viewers having turned extremely choosy about what they want to leave the comfort of their homes for, Dias said. But the studio is not losing hope. It has a slate of acclaimed international titles lined up especially for January and February next year, in the run-up to the Oscars where several of these titles are expected to secure nominations. Films like Till, TAR and Creed III are scheduled for release next year and the studio brought She Said, an investigative drama on the MeToo movement, to cinemas, last week.

Be it Hindi or English, audiences are only coming to theatres for big event films, agreed Sanjeev Kumar Bijli, joint managing director at PVR Ltd, citing the example of hits like Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Brahmastra and Ponniyin Selvan-1. “However, we’re slowly seeing the trend of small films bouncing back, with Uunchai, Yashoda and The Kashmir Files earlier and it’s only a matter of time before we find that one sleeper hit in English too," Bijli said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lata Jha

Lata Jha covers media and entertainment for Mint. She focuses on the film, television, video and audio streaming businesses. She is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism. She can be found at the movies, when not writing about them.
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