Watch a short film for as little as ₹20

MyCinemaHall is an app that works on a pay-per-view mode   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

It has been about two years since Yaatric Chakraborty made his first feature film — he has made seven short and two feature films – but the memory of rejections from ‘brokers’ still hurts. “They won’t see your film. They just want to know who the hero and heroine are. Only if you have political connections or muscle power, even if it’s a terrible film, it will play,” he says.

Chakraborty studied film direction from the National Institute of Film & Fine Arts from 2011-2015, in Kolkata, and started by making a few short films, such as Mukh Mukhosh and Mother’s House, that have been shown at national and international festivals.

“When I decided to make a feature film, it was as if I had committed a crime,” says Chakraborty, who has held a Government job for 22 years in the Rifle Factory Ishapur, and has now opted for voluntary retirement.

Yaatric Chakraborty, the founder of MyCinemaHall

Yaatric Chakraborty, the founder of MyCinemaHall   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

He envisioned MyCinemaHall as a ‘web theatre’ where each mobile phone turns into a micro screen, and viewers pay only for the movie they’re watching, much like in a hall. This pay per view model is designed with the producer/director and the audience in mind, making the ‘middlemen’ — theatre owners - redundant. While the concept of pay per view (as opposed to a subscription model when you pay for a time period), is not new, Chakraborty’s platform allows any regional filmmaker in India to upload films once they have been ok-ed by MyCinemaHall’s panel of advisors.

“We are a strictly family platform, so we don’t accept adult content, and would rather stay away from religious content, and anything that may overtly hurt anyone’s sentiment. Otherwise, in terms of quality, we leave it to the viewers to decide,” says Kalyanmoy Chatterjee, the managing director.

Each producer gets uploading rights, and a dashboard to track how the film is doing. They can price the movie at whatever they want – though the optimal price seems to be close to ₹100 for a feature film and ₹20-30 for a short film (less than 45 minutes). Revenue is shared weekly with 70% going to the producer. So far content on OTT platforms do not need to go through the Central Board of Film Certification’s process.

Chatterjee, who joined the company after spending 31 years in market research, says he had a bunch of business ideas when he left the corporate world. He met a friend who suggested that producing movies was also a business. But after producing a couple, Chatterjee realised that it was difficult for an independent cinema maker to get a hall.

“There are around 8,000 live cinema halls in India, of which about 800 are multiplexes. Each has four to eight screens with six to 10 shows a day. But getting a screen is next to impossible. It’s controlled tightly by a group of people, mostly from Mumbai. They will run a hall empty, but they will not give you a show. You need muscle power. It’s something everyone acknowledges, but no one talks about,” he says, adding that in addition to nepotism, this was a topic that should be in the public knowledge.

So far, the app, available on the Play Store — it will soon be iOS, smart TV, and computer compatible — has approximately 11,000 downloads. There are some comments on the functionality of the app, but Chatterjee says those have been ironed out. Somnath Ghosh, who codes for the company, says it has been challenging because start-ups usually have little money, must do things at high speed, and must use the resources they have wisely. This was all the more important because they didn’t want movies to be downloaded.

A few popular movies are: Bhobishyoter Bhoot, Nartak, Battery, A Better Life. While the content is currently predominantly in Bengali with some English, Assamese, Oriya, and Marathi, Chatterjee says it is just a matter of time for the platform to be populated across regions. There are far too many filmmakers in India who would like to earn money for the movies they make, without having to put it out on YouTube for free, when they do not get a distribution channel for release.

Kalyanmoy Chatterjee

Kalyanmoy Chatterjee   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Chatterjee, who has spent most of his adult life trying to understand and predict consumer behaviour, feels this is the future of cinema, even as halls still remain closed and people will be all the more wary of stepping into enclosed spaces even when they do reopen.

The company has launched a Bengali film festival and competition for the short films on the platform, of which again a part of the ticket price will go to the filmmaker. Called My Shorts, there will be a panel of judges with people like National Award winning cinematographer Avik Mukhopadhyay and editor Arghya Kamal Mitra.

They have their marketing calendar in place, and hope to reach out to film schools as well. “Finally, you market the content, not the platform,” says Chatterjee. “That would be like marketing a football stadium. You promote the games and the stars.”

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Printable version | Nov 27, 2020 11:09:45 PM |

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