Robojit Film to Bring More Bang for Each Invested Buck

Rakesh Raman

Rakesh Raman

You’d agree that the traditional film distribution models are increasingly being challenged because of their limited reach. A big-budget movie, for example, opens simultaneously at just 4,000-odd screens in primary markets. It’s seen that this model is not effective enough to reach out to the masses.

By the time the film is released in the secondary markets, its pirated copies are already available on the Web on multiple servers installed across the world. In other words, a movie that has consumed, say, nearly $200 million as its production cost is almost dead within one week of its release.

Subsequent release of the same movie on Blu-ray, DVD, or UltraViolet meets the same fate because piracy is rampant over the Web.

New Film Distribution Models

To combat this threat, a joint production of Anthony E. Zuiker – the creator of the CSI franchise and his production company Dare to Pass – and Yahoo! released Cybergeddon film last year (2012).

“Cybergeddon’ has the potential to premiere on 50 million online screens all over the world at the same time. This global distribution model is the future of storytelling with unprecedented scale,” Zuiker said.

Zuiker may be right. But this Web-based distribution model has yet to see acceptance among the consumers as well as investors, as Cybergeddon was offered free of charge to the consumers.

Similarly, the animated series “Electric City,” created by and starring Hollywood actor Tom Hanks, was released recently on Yahoo! Screen. The idea was to capture more eyeballs for Electric City, as Yahoo! Screen is available to millions of consumers unlike theater screens. But this experiment also went almost unnoticed.

That’s not all. As one of the first major Hollywood filmmakers to launch a paid channel on YouTube, Roger Corman, along with his longtime producer partner Julie Corman, planned “Corman’s Drive-In” on YouTube. Corman’s channel is part of YouTube’s new platform, offering viewers more channels through a paid subscription model.

“Corman’s Drive-In” will give the Oscar winning director the opportunity to take the treasured library of more than 400 classic films directly to his fan base, as well as reach a new millennial audience.

These attempts are supposed to leverage the pervasive reach of digital media and cut the distribution costs that are exorbitantly high. While a major chunk of the box office revenues goes to the passive distributors, the creative people don’t get the money they actually deserve and the production quality gets affected for want of money as producers have to take into account the distribution costs.

Demand vs. Supply

Big filmmakers realize that by conserving the indirect costs, they can pump in more money into the production of films to improve their production quality and to add more creative content in the films, which can earn more money for them.

Enhanced creativity in films with more interactive features for consumer engagement is the need of the hour because the conventional way of storytelling is fast getting obsolete as the content delivery is static. Thanks to digital media, today’s connected consumers want interactivity.

So, the challenge is to win back this new generation of consumers for whom film may not be the primary source of entertainment, as they prefer interactivity that social networking promises. Film fraternity is in a state of quandary, as most film companies are working with people who have traditional mindsets and they’re not able to deal with this transformed ecosystem.

They’re not able to solve the enigma of changing consumer behavior largely driven by new media. In the new media universe, their marketing campaigns for a movie, for example, are limited to social media properties like Facebook and Twitter, which are utterly useless because these sites offer crude connectivity that can’t be translated into theater footfalls.

Use of Digital Platforms

At present, all the digital and social media use is at an experimentation stage. As leading film production companies in Hollywood don’t understand the subtleties of new media and the virtual mass communication models to woo the Gen-Y consumers, they’re simply trying to apply traditional models on digital platforms. The resultant concoction is either tasteless or bitter. Hollywood is struggling to go beyond the 1.5 billion number of cinema ticket sales in a year that earn some $11 billion for the entire film industry.

These are peanuts considering the fact that today there are nearly 2 billion consumers connected to the Net and over 6 billion mobile devices are in use. All these users can be the potential consumers of the 600-odd movies released from Americas in a year.

Consequently, the number of views for each content unit (say, a film) and the revenues can increase exponentially. But to pull off this kind of success, the top film companies need to take an iconoclastic view of the things that are hampering growth. Among other steps, they need to transform all their processes of content creation and distribution.

Robojit and the Sand Planet

That’s what the Robojit and the Sand Planet project is going to target. While I strongly believe that content is the most powerful component of an entertainment project, Robojit story fulfills that requirement. I also believe that medium for content delivery is a dynamic thing. Today, digital is taking precedence over physical medium; tomorrow even some biological medium can emerge. We don’t know. But the power of content will never diminish or change.

Keeping these factors in view, I’ve conceptualized a hybrid model of content creation, delivery, and monetization for the Robojit project. This model will cut through the existing clutter of distribution and ensure maximum returns for the production units, investors, and the creative clan associated with the project.

As I’m still working on my new model that is going to bring a disruptive change in the film industry, one thing is totally clear in my mind: Like sex, you need the right ambiance to enjoy a movie. And you can’t enjoy sex if you’re not emotionally attached with your partner, as sex can’t be a mechanical activity.

Taking the sex analogy to films, I say your film content should be so captivating that it should win an emotional commitment from the movie watchers. Plus, the ambiance in which they watch the movie must be so soothing that it should keep them in a kind of cocoon for the entire duration of the movie – and later.

Today, only a handful of films touch this level of content quality. Moreover, neither the physical film outlets nor the digital ones provide any warm embrace to the viewers in terms of surroundings. So, I’m trying to use the best of the both worlds – real and virtual – to offer something fresh through the Robojit project.

Wish me luck.

Rakesh Raman

[ Also Read: When I Met My Doppelgänger ]

[ Also Read: Robojit Poised to Transform the Entertainment World ]

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