The Long And The Short of It: Are Reels Killing Cinema?


Pathaan is the only bona fide Bollywood hit so far this year. (Image: Twitter)

Pathaan is the only bona fide Bollywood hit so far this year. (Image: Twitter)

These short-form clips made a splash, flooding our phones with some very entertaining videos around 2020. And now it seems like they have turned into this monster that the film industry doesn’t know how to take on

With the completion of the first quarter of Hindi cinema’s calendar, the balance sheet of Bollywood shows only one bona fide hit, Pathaan, with the remaining months from January to March 2023 offering average hits and mostly films that underperformed at the box office.

Ajay Devgn’s Bholaa collected Rs 44.28 crore net, even though the film got a thumbs up from most critics. Akshay Kumar’s Selfiee netted Rs 16.85 crore, Kartik Aaryan’s Shehzada managed to collect a total of Rs 32.20 crore at the ticket window, and the lifetime collection of Tu Jhoohti Main Makkaar stands at Rs 139.32 crore net.

While the theatres are open, life has gone back to the pre-Covid world, but the footfalls haven’t returned like in 2019.

Many industry bigwigs including filmmakers, studio heads, and other key players have been saying that it’s OTT that has provided an alternative to the viewers, which is correct if one just looks at the surging numbers of subscribers of these streaming platforms.

But do all moviegoers in the country have one or more OTT subscriptions? Or is it the biggest streaming giant YouTube or Instagram that has managed to provide that alternate entertainment to the common man? Are Reels killing Cinema?

Cinema has been providing over two-hour entertainment to the average moviegoer, as it is believed that films have been offering an escape from reality to viewers for two or three hours to immerse themselves into this alternate world inside the lightbox. Today, one can easily spend two hours consuming reels on their smartphone. These reels may not be providing them with the story that a film offers, but it’s serving the purpose of dishing out entertainment to the audience who otherwise would have preferred going to the theatre.

Are YouTube or Instagram reels giving enough to the moviegoing audience that they are settling for these 59-second clips, followed by a newer clip that could be funnier than the previous one? Are they slowly killing the interest of the moviegoing audience? I asked film trade analyst Taran Adarsh this.

“Well, I don’t think YouTube or Instagram reels are killing the entertainment industry, but, yes, they are a great diversion for people who want entertainment,” he said. “And these reels are full of entertainment all the while. Not just entertainment, but a lot of information is out there on these reels. That is perhaps one of the reasons why a lot of people feel that you can devote a lot of time to these things instead of going out to films. A moviegoing experience today is only limited to larger-than-life big-screen entertainment. Earlier, every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, many people used to step out and watch a film. Not anymore. Today you have OTT, you have Instagram and YouTube reels, and you have your cellphone which has a lot of apps contributing to the entertainment factor. So people feel if it’s for a larger-than-life experience for a film—RRR, KGF 2, Gangubai for a Sanjay Leela Bhansali film— only then you need to step out to a theatre.”

A lot has changed in this post-Covid world at the movies. Earlier, even a film offering average entertainment was able to survive its first weekend. But today, with the rise of social media, an average entertainer— or shall I say, a bad film— won’t be able to get a decent opening day.

These short-form clips made a splash, flooding our phones with some very entertaining videos around 2020. And now it seems like they have turned into this monster that the film industry doesn’t know how to take on. Or are we going to continue believing that we are not making good films? But what happened to those mindless entertainers that were the money spinners, whose success resulted in big studios backing small films that made a difference?

Right now, all eyes are on Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan, hoping Salman Khan will bring the viewers back to the theatres in droves and will make new box office records like he did with his 2011 film Bodyguard, which collected over Rs 100 crore in its opening weekend.

Trade is very bullish about Salman’s Eid release, and is also hoping King Khan will repeat his magic with Jawan later this year.

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