Rise of Online Film Festivals & OTT – Are Our Homes the New Cinema Halls?

film festivals & OTT
Image Credits: Trendy Gadgets

The recently concluded We Are One Global film festival, organized by Tribeca Enterprises in conjunction with YouTube, saw a majority of cinephiles thronging to their screens right from the confines of their homes. The 10-day global film festival was co-curated by over 20 film festivals from across the world including Cannes, Tribeca, and Berlin, as well as some of the smaller festivals which don’t attract as much publicity, and was streaming live from May 29 – June 07, 2020. The festival was born out of the idea that the film community can come together in times of crisis – both in celebration of films and in support by providing much- needed relief for COVID-19 efforts.

Prateek Vat’s ‘Eeb Allay Ooo?’ (Hindi) and Arun Karthick’s ‘Nasir’ (Tamil) were chosen to represent India in the first edition of this online film festival. Besides two feature films, two Indian shorts, Shaan Vyas’ ‘Natkhat’ and Atul Mongia’s ‘Awake’ were also on the menu. In total, the film festival included 13 world premieres, 31 online premieres, and five international online premieres, along with conversations and interviews with renowned filmmakers such as Francis Ford Coppola and Bong Joon-ho. 

One of the biggest film festivals in the world, The Cannes Film Festival, held regularly in mid-May would have hosted it’s 73rd version this year. However, the physical festival has been shelved due to the ongoing global pandemic. 

film festivals & OTT
Image Credits: DNA India

The “Marche Du Film”, which takes place in tandem with the festival is the annual rendezvous for professionals across all walks of the global film industry from producers to distributors, buyers, programmers and more, has this year been launched online from June 22, and offers professionals from around the world opportunities to attend over 150 events, panel and keynote talks, speed meetings and round-table discussions, as well as exclusive concerts from the various soundtrack and film score composers. Along with this, it will also have virtual booths, exhibitions, VR Projects, online screenings, and will also enable filmmakers to network and connect with distributors via the Match&Meet App.

One of the largest documentary festivals in Europe, CPH: Dox- The Copenhagen International Documentary Festival is also releasing this year in a new online version where audiences can experience the best documentary of the year and participate in live debates at home from their couches.

In India, many production houses are slated for an online release on various OTT streaming platforms. Soojit Sircar’s ‘Gulaabo Sitaabo’, on Amazon prime video, was the first Indian feature film to take the plunge to release on an OTT platform. The streaming platform also clenched the premiere rights of five other films, including Vidya Balan’s big summer release ‘Shakuntala Devi’ and Tamil film ‘Ponmagal Vandhal’

Bulbul’, directed by Anvita Dutt and produced by actor Anushka Sharma also hit the online streaming service Netflix this week. Actor Jahnvi Kapoor’s next release ‘Gunjan Saxena, produced by Zee Studios and Dharma Productions will also see an online release. 

All of this means one thing for cinema globally and raises questions on whether OTT streaming platforms are making homes the new cinema halls. Film festivals are no more ‘black tie’ events but are ‘pyjama’ events, as one can attend these, right from their couches. The rise of online film festivals and the increase of OTT releases for feature and short films will in the near future, be beneficial to several producers, as, after all, theatres are not going to open anytime soon. The Producers Guild of India also backed the idea of digital releases simply because it makes sense monetarily. The technological revolution will redefine theatre for the type of content such as genre movies. As the never-ending debate of cinema halls versus OTT platforms continue, one thing is certain, that the current audiences will not shy away from shedding an extra penny to seek a completely transformative experience for fresh, relatable, and engaging content.


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