When television came, everyone thought it was a derivative of the movies. With the convenience of a screen at home, the screens in the markets were soon going to be redundant and it was proclaimed that movies were gonna die. But while TV was derivative of Films in content (so many ‘telefilms’ were made in early history of television), it wasn’t really an alternative to theatres because it could never give the immersive experience that movies could.

Eventually, TV found its own identity and gave way to running shows – a format that early movies had struggled with and discarded as unsuitable for the appointment viewing of a theatrical experience. For a long time, television content was derivative of movies and to a large extent in India, it still is. But clearly TV and Films have coexisted – both poaching on each other’s content, formats, stars & technicians quite successfully.

But then came internet and digital mediums. Their biggest point of departure from TV and films is their independent content. So, now once again, it’s proclaimed that it’s all over for the movies. (And for TV as well, some say).

In this new medium the screen is even smaller but it is in the consumer’s palm and the experience is once again completely immersive. Even more than the theatre going experience. Your spouse can share your popcorn and cola in the theatre but you can watch ‘Breaking Bad’ in peace, sitting on your toilet and no one can share that experience. The selfie-obsessed narcissistic generation of millennials wants exactly this.

This is a real threat to movies. Movies, as I know them, are dying. And no. They aren’t ‘evolving’ into anything. Telefilm was an interim format. It evolved into TV series format and eventually into Soaps. Likewise ‘Netflix-exclusive’ movies and ‘digital only’ releases are just waiting to evolve into something else. Something more suited to a screen in your palms. But the difference between evolution of content in TV and that on digital medium is that TV never actually decreased the footfalls so drastically as digital mediums have done.

And yes, this affects movies like nothing else could in the last century. The medium is going through such a massive and rapid change that by the time it learns to adjust to one variable, 50 new variables have entered the equation. And there’s no way of knowing that movies will survive or not.

Or may be there is.

In my crazy head, I get stupid schemes that are completely impractical but interesting thought experiments. So here goes one:
I know this cannot happen in reality but I wish that all the big shots of the movie industry read this and decide to do my little experiment.

First, we shut down all theatres. No new movie release for a year. Let the theatres be empty. In these 52 weeks, no PR, no publicity, no news etc. can come out about any upcoming movies, their stars, production – anything at all. It should be like movie industry has shut down completely. Movies, like Victorian headgears, are a thing of past. History.

Then one Friday, after a year, without any prior notice, we release a new film. No big PR. Just a small board outside every theatre that says ‘Now Showing _______’. Ideally it should be a film with unknown actors and a debutante director. So, there are no preconceived notions about the quality or genre of the film.

There are only two outcomes possible.Either the theatres will run full or they’ll run empty.

In either case, by Monday we would all know what the fate of the medium is going to be.

There’s a strong chance in a year’s time people would have become too used to the screens on their palms and would not care to come back to theatres. If that happens, be assured that this experiment has not killed the movies but only helped to speed up the process.

But if people do come back… it will mean that movies are here to stay. And what an amazing thing that would be!

I know. I know. This experiment is stupid.
It wil cause a loss of few hundred crores. But by releasing movies when people aren’t willing to go to theatres, we are already losing hundreds of crores.

As for myself, I’ll pool in all the money I have to buy the last standing theatre and watch movies, like I always do, till the day I die.

I will definitely die before movies do.
That I’m sure of.

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