This piece is written purely in the Indian context.
Laxmii, an Akshay Kumar movie, garnered a remarkable number of negative reviews upon its release on an OTT platform. Yet, according to the said OTT, it grabbed more than 200+ million views within 24 hours of its release – a record of sorts.
Not just Laxmii, a slew of movies released on OTT platforms and failed to win the hearts of expert reviewers managed to stay on ‘trending’ list for more than a couple of weeks.
Let us look at another case, Scam 1992. It has an outstanding 9.6 rating on IMDB. Backed by great storytelling and amazing action, besides being based on the story of an intriguing personality, it continues to be a darling online. Yet, it received average to little above-average ratings by expert reviewers.
Does it mean that the value-addition of ‘expert reviews’ is falling in the context of OTT platforms?
Yes and no. Here is what I think.
Though inevitable, I feel that comparing the theatre experience with home is not apt. Both have their own functional and emotional benefits. The grandiose experience can only happen in theatres. But, in some areas like convenience and cost, OTTs beat theatres. Probably, it is the latter which made people think twice before ‘investing’ money on a movie ticket. It is in this context the reviews mattered. Expert or otherwise.
In any metro in India, a family of four spends an average of ₹ 1000 when they go out to watch a movie. It is a family outing of a kind, more or less. So, the choice needs to be well-judged.
However, OTTs cost you nothing in comparison. Cost of a movie experience can buy you a yearly subscription of one (or in some cases two) OTT(s). This aspect has struck down the parameter of cost-per-movie. The only significant investment here is time. Thanks to the pandemic, a lot of people (individuals and families) have more time on hand now.
Taking money out of the equation, it is only about the emotion of watching a movie or a series. When theatre is not a possibility, people have comfortably settled mentally and physically into their couches and sofas to enjoy a film according to their convenience.
So, the hitherto aspect of ‘reality check’ via reviews is of not much value now. You like a protagonist or the trailer; nothing stops you from investing your time. One, as a maker or presenter, has to create the right buzz. Stay relevant and look promising. People would watch the content despite the expert reviews.
Things might slightly change once people get busy with routines once restrictions ease, post-pandemic. But, the fact of the matter is a good majority got used to OTTs now. This number would only increase with time.
I feel that expert reviews are going to be less relevant as we move forward. Or, maybe, the experts might have to put more heart than functional analysis into their review to stay more relevant – after all, it is an art form aimed to entertain people. So, the heart makes more sense there than function.