Updated: August 8, 2020 8:06:39 am
Mulan isn’t coming to a theatre near you. Disney’s decision to release the live-action remake of the animated classic on its OTT platform earlier this week has theatre owners understandably apprehensive about their future. The decision signals a fundamental shift in the economics and patterns of consumption of cinema, catalysed by the pandemic. While smaller budget films have been released on digital platforms, Mulan is the first film of its scale that has skipped theatres.
In the age of lockdowns, hyperbole and social media, nostalgic reminiscences of the cinema-hall experience are already proliferating. But before writing the obituary of the communal consumption of mass culture, it is important to remember that Disney isn’t all there is to mainstream films, and there are movies outside America. The South Asian blockbuster, for example, doesn’t lend itself as easily to first-time viewing at home.
Apart from mundane concerns of infrastructure and economy (lack of broadband penetration and the fact that OTT platforms and pay-per-view showings are still too expensive for most households), what Indians expect from a mainstream blockbuster is different. The experience is more interactive, the enjoyment more performative. Imagine whistling at your laptop screen when the superstar makes his entrance. And dancing along to a song in your room with headphones on doesn’t have the same charm as doing so in the narrow space between the front stall and the screen. The blockbuster is not usually an intimate story. It is a parable told on a large canvas, in close-ups, that tell you who to root for. Let the OTT platforms have Mulan. The theatre in India has Rajinikanth.
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