Film industry

Siddharth Roy Kapur on FICCI-Frames 2018, movie ticket prices, and the future of OTT platforms

The government needs to do more to help the film industry, says the producer and former Disney India managing director.

The 2018 edition of FICCI-Frames, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry’s annual convention on the film and entertainment market, will see more than 60 international companies from all over the world shopping for Indian content.

Called the FICCI-Frames Content and Services Market-Confluence, the event will be held from March 5 to March 7 at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Mumbai.

So far, according to the organising team, 60 buyers from 30 countries have been confirmed to attend the event. They will be seeking to enter into production, financing and distribution deals for Indian feature films, short films, documentaries, talk shows and animated films.

Siddharth Roy Kapur, president of the Film and Television Producers Guild of India, will once again be a part of the event. The former Disney India head, who recently set up his banner, Roy Kapur Films, is also the co-chair of the FICCI entertainment committee. Above all, Kapur said, he will be present as just a member of the film industry who is interested in its future. In an interview, Kapur spoke of the event’s importance, the challenges faced by the entertainment industry, and the way to move forward.

How is FICCI-Frames important for the film and television industry?
FICCI-Frames is a great opportunity to meet the rest of the industry and discuss issues that we face every day. It is good to take a few days off to pause and reflect on what we could do better, where the challenges and the opportunities lie, and to engage with not just our colleagues but also the government to discuss the future of the media and entertainment sector.

How did the initiative for the global buyers’ market come about?
The entire credit goes to the FICCI team for brainstorming and finding a way to closely integrate what we do with the global entertainment industry. They got through to the ones who have the right connections in the entertainment industry globally. They are bringing the right players down.

What are the primary challenges that the Indian entertainment industry faces at the moment?
In a nutshell, we need to improve our level of engagement with the government. We should be able to better communicate the importance and significance of the film industry not just in terms of economic importance, but also as how cinema lends itself to be a soft power. Cinema affects how India is perceived around the world. If these things are improved, then exponential gains are to be made.

India is tremendously under-screened when compared to the United States of America and even China, which was trailing behind India in the number of screens until as recent as ten years ago. What is being done to address this concern?
Honestly, I don’t think we are doing as much as we should be doing. In China, the reason for massive growth is government incentives for the entertainment sector. The fact that the government has been an active participant in China’s entertainment sector has resulted in the fast growth of film theatres.

In India, there was a massive boom of multiplexes for about five years, which resulted in exponential growth of the industry. I believe we need the next leg of that movement now.

The metros and mini-metros are saturated with screens, but still a large part of the country is cinema-dark with no available theatres. There, people consume films through piracy or other platforms like television. We need support from the government to fix this, like easing up of regulations and tax incentives.

Has the 28 per cent Goods and Services Tax slab affected film ticket sales as badly as was initially predicted?
There is not a direct correlation, as a lot of different things affect cinema watching today like the availability of content on other platforms. That said, clubbing the film industry with the gambling and tobacco industry in the tax structure is not the way to go.

Cinema was and still is the cheapest form of entertainment for the masses. If the tax is reduced, ticket prices will come down, and the government would actually do a great job for its own people.

Should the film industry feel threatened by the proliferation of over-the-top digital platforms in India?
Whenever any new technology comes, it is assumed that it will threaten the old guard. Watching films in theatres will always have its place in India – not just the experience of watching a film on the big screen but the entire activity of going out with friends or family and enjoying a movie.

What has happened is that content has become more democratised. The control has been put back in the hands of the consumer. Today, consumers want to be able to watch what they want, when they want and where they want it. You cannot escape from technology. You need to embrace it. This gives a great opportunity to creators to be able to tell stories in newer, fresher ways. All mediums can coexist, and this should be seen as a positive, not a negative.

What should these new streaming platforms keep in mind if they are to be successful in a country like India?
It is really about giving people what they want to watch. The consumer interface as well as the customer service mechanism should be great. It all goes back to producing great content. All the OTT platforms in India have great plans for the next few years. The sky is the limit.

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