VAM Summit 2022: Cinema, OTT and reality show experts predict a competitive yet bright future

Day three of the VAM Summit included an engaging panel discussion on an intriguing topic: ‘The floodgates open.’ The speakers were: Omdia chief analyst media and entertainment and European Digital Cinema Forum president David Hancock, MX Player CCO Gautam Talwar, and SOL Production founder and producer Fazila Allana. The session was moderated by Variety international correspondent Naman Ramachandram.

The panel focussed on discussing how VFX has become an integral part of content production, how the filmmakers/content platforms plan to strike a balance between flexibility and overall budgets, what are the future possibilities of filmmaking and more.

David kick-started the segment with a presentation where he studied the trends in the international film industry and how the box office fared in the last couple of pandemic-struck years. He predicted, “The exhibition sector will lose approximately $57 billion in box office between 2020 and 2022. This does not include the loss of concessions, the key profit driver, and screen advertising which adds significantly to the loss.” Predicting the bright future, he asserted, “The outlook for 2022 is 110+ wide releases underlining that confidence in theatrical is returning.”

Will the addiction to streaming platforms during the pandemic come in the way of viewers returning to the big screen? This seems to be a big question haunting the minds of many. Gautam spoke from experience, “Because of the kind of content that is being produced by the OTT streaming platforms, I think moving forward cinema will have to rethink what is the content strategy that they now want to come up with. The pressure is now on the reverse.” Content proliferation, which was incentivised in 2020 due to the increased audience for OTT, will only increase in 2022.

Formerly-niche Indian regional content got new audiences who have discovered these hidden gems, all thanks to the boom in online streaming amid the pandemic. Commenting on the fresh trend that is doing the rounds, Allana added, “Majority of the Indian population likes to consume content in their home language or their mother tongue. So, there’s definitely a lot of scope for regional OTTs to be power-players in their states.” The growth of OTT content in India in the last two years has led to more viewers today having access to regional language content and they are making good use of it.

When Nanam enquired whether the VFX budgets have increased or reduced as a direct impact of Covid, Gautam was quick enough to respond, “The VFX budgets have only increased since the pandemic because the number of players have increased and the demand for content consumption has significantly increased.” However, there is no denying the fact that VFX usage cuts travel costs of going to original locales and also because it allows digital cleaning. It even prevents expensive retakes and helps in the recreation of new locations.

When there’s far too much content to make sense of, curation is king; and this could end up being crucial to the streaming and cinema wars of 2022.