‘Godzilla vs. Kong’: Lured by a spectacle

With cinemas shutting across the world, will there be room only for ‘event’ cinema like Godzilla vs. Kong?

As you read this, Godzilla vs. Kong is already the biggest hit across the planet, including in India, China, the US, wherever cinemas are open, really. People are flocking by the millions to watch the beloved monsters go up against each other in an epic spectacle. By the same token, medium-level films, budget and spectacle-wise, are not exactly falling by the wayside, but aren’t doing humongous box office numbers either. The debate that has been raging on for the last year, ever since Covid-19 began ravaging the world, and producers started giving their babies to OTT platforms for direct to digital premières, is about the death of small cinema.

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Small, intimate films are going nowhere soon and will continue to be made and consumed, but the question is whether their platforms will be restricted. The year that has passed has had a devastating effect on cinemas. The latest FICCI report reveals that in India alone, some 1,500 cinemas were forced to close over the last 12 months, leaving just 8,000 screens for a population of 1.3 billion. Though there are dedicated repertory single cinemas and chains for independent films around the world, won’t producers be tempted to recover costs in one fell swoop? Or maybe even turn a profit by selling rights to a giant global streamer, with the justification that their product is reaching some 200 countries at the same time and potentially hundreds of millions of eyeballs.

From an audience point of view, in a post-Covid, vaccinated world (and that world can’t come soon enough), will they be willing to take a risk (vaccinations aren’t 100% guarantees of not getting the virus, it only makes it much milder) and go to a cinema and sit cheek-by-jowl with a potentially infected stranger to drink in an independent film, as opposed to a James Bond or a Marvel spectacle? Will the only event remaining be ‘event’ cinema? If such a scenario transpires, it’ll be a crying shame. For, however small the film, the big screen in a darkened cinema creates a powerful bond between the subject matter and the viewer. Unless you are wealthy or fortunate enough to have a home theatre, the at-home viewing experience is just not the same.

I leave you with a personal experience. Along with a prominent Indian independent filmmaker I watched Cate Blanchett’s Oscar-winning performance in Blue Jasmine in a giant multiplex in Leicester Square. We were stunned by the agony Blanchett conveyed in the film. As we stumbled out into daylight, rendered speechless, the moment was somewhat ruined by a selfie seeker (for a picture with him, not me), but the effect was indelible enough for both of us to remember today, eight years down the line. I somehow doubt a small screen will provide that level of engagement.

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