Indian Cinema in Covid-19

Indian Cinema in Covid-19: Challenges, Adaptation, & Future

During COVID-19, Indian cinema faced significant challenges with halted productions, closed theaters and streaming platforms gained prominence and released new films directly to viewers. But despite setbacks, a new and innovative approaches rised, fostering digital releases and hybrid models.

Indian Cinema during pandemic


The Covid-19 pandemic has left an indelible mark on every aspect of society, and the Indian film industry, often referred to as Bollywood, is no exception. From production halts to disrupted release schedules and the closure of theaters, the pandemic has posed unprecedented challenges to an industry that thrives on the collective experience of watching movies on the big screen. However, amidst these challenges, Indian cinema has also demonstrated resilience, adaptability, and innovation, paving the way for new modes of production, distribution, and consumption. This article by Academic Block dive into the impact of Covid-19 on Indian cinema, exploring the challenges faced, the adaptations made, and the future prospects for the industry.

Impact on Production

One of the immediate impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on the Indian film industry was the halt of film production activities. With lockdowns imposed across the country and strict restrictions on movement and gatherings, film sets were deserted, bringing ongoing productions to a standstill. This disruption not only affected the livelihoods of thousands of workers in the industry but also led to significant financial losses for producers and studios.

The suspension of production activities highlighted the industry’s vulnerability to external shocks and underscored the need for contingency planning and risk mitigation strategies. Filmmakers had to reassess their production schedules, taking into account factors such as safety protocols, availability of shooting locations, and the health of cast and crew members. Many production houses also faced logistical challenges in obtaining permits for shooting in various locations, further delaying the resumption of filming.

In response to these challenges, some filmmakers turned to alternative modes of production, such as remote shooting and virtual production techniques. Virtual meetings and auditions became the norm, allowing filmmakers to conduct pre-production activities while adhering to social distancing guidelines. However, the transition to virtual production posed its own set of challenges, including technical limitations, communication barriers, and the inability to replicate the collaborative atmosphere of traditional film sets.

Indian Cinema During pandemic

Impact on Distribution

The closure of theaters due to the Covid-19 pandemic dealt a severe blow to the Indian film industry, disrupting the traditional distribution model and forcing filmmakers to explore alternative avenues for releasing their films. With cinemas shuttered and audiences confined to their homes, streaming platforms emerged as a lifeline for filmmakers seeking to reach their target audience.

Streaming platforms witnessed a surge in viewership during the lockdown period, as audiences turned to digital platforms for entertainment. Recognizing this shift in consumer behavior, major production houses struck deals with streaming giants to release their films directly on digital platforms, bypassing the traditional theatrical release model. This trend, commonly referred to as “direct-to-digital” release, allowed filmmakers to recoup some of their investments and reach a wider audience while theaters remained closed.

However, the shift to digital distribution also raised concerns about the long-term viability of theaters and the impact on the theatrical experience. Theater owners, already grappling with declining attendance and rising operating costs, expressed apprehensions about the growing dominance of streaming platforms and the erosion of the theatrical exhibition ecosystem. Moreover, the lack of box office revenue from theatrical releases threatened the financial viability of small and medium-sized production houses, which rely heavily on theatrical revenue to sustain their operations.

Impact on Exhibition

The closure of theaters during the Covid-19 pandemic had a profound impact on the exhibition sector, leading to revenue losses, job cuts, and closures of cinema halls across the country. With no clarity on when theaters would be allowed to reopen and fears of virus transmission among moviegoers, cinema owners faced an uncertain future, prompting some to explore alternative revenue streams or diversify their offerings.

To mitigate the impact of the pandemic, theater owners implemented various safety measures, including enhanced cleaning protocols, limited seating capacity, and mandatory mask-wearing for patrons. Some theaters also invested in technology upgrades, such as air purification systems and contactless ticketing solutions, to reassure customers about the safety of returning to cinemas.

However, despite these efforts, the recovery of the exhibition sector remained slow and uneven, with audiences exhibiting reluctance to return to theaters amid lingering concerns about the risk of Covid-19 transmission. Moreover, the emergence of streaming platforms as competitors for viewership further compounded the challenges faced by traditional theaters, raising questions about the future of the theatrical exhibition model in India.

Adaptations and Innovations

Despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Indian film industry demonstrated remarkable resilience and adaptability, embracing digital technologies and innovative strategies to navigate the crisis. Filmmakers experimented with new formats and genres, catering to the evolving tastes and preferences of audiences in the post-pandemic era.

One notable trend that emerged during the pandemic was the rise of “lockdown films” – movies that were conceptualized, produced, and shot entirely during the lockdown period. These films, often characterized by their minimalist aesthetic and intimate storytelling, offered a glimpse into the human experience during times of crisis, resonating with audiences grappling with similar challenges.

Another adaptation seen in the Indian film industry was the resurgence of animation and visual effects-driven films, which were less reliant on physical production and could be created remotely. With live-action shoots hampered by social distancing guidelines and travel restrictions, animation emerged as a viable alternative for filmmakers looking to continue their creative pursuits amidst the pandemic.

Furthermore, the pandemic prompted filmmakers to explore new distribution models and revenue streams, including pay-per-view streaming, video-on-demand, and hybrid releases combining theatrical and digital distribution. These innovative approaches not only helped filmmakers reach audiences in the comfort of their homes but also diversified their revenue sources and reduced their dependence on traditional distribution channels.

Future Prospects

As the Indian film industry emerges from the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic, it faces both challenges and opportunities on the road to recovery. The pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation of the industry, paving the way for a more diversified and flexible ecosystem that encompasses both traditional theatrical releases and digital distribution platforms.

However, the long-term viability of traditional theaters remains uncertain, as audiences continue to embrace the convenience and accessibility of streaming platforms. Theater owners must innovate and adapt to changing consumer preferences, leveraging technology and immersive experiences to enhance the theatrical experience and differentiate themselves from digital competitors.

At the same time, filmmakers must continue to experiment with new formats and storytelling techniques, catering to the evolving tastes and preferences of audiences in the post-pandemic era. Collaboration and partnerships between filmmakers, production houses, and distribution platforms will be key to driving innovation and fostering growth in the Indian film industry.

Final Words

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges to the Indian film industry, disrupting production, distribution, and exhibition activities. However, amidst these challenges, the industry has demonstrated resilience, adaptability, and innovation, paving the way for a more diversified and dynamic ecosystem. As the industry navigates the uncertain terrain of the post-pandemic era, collaboration, creativity, and a willingness to embrace change will be essential to ensuring its continued success and prosperity. Hope you liked this article by Academic Block, please provide your valuable thoughts in the comment section to make this article better. Thanks for Reading!

This Article will answer your questions like:

+ How is the Indian film industry affected by Covid-19? >

The Indian film industry experienced massive disruptions due to Covid-19, with production halts, release delays, and financial losses. Theaters were closed, impacting box office revenues. However, the pandemic accelerated the adoption of digital platforms, leading to a significant shift towards online content consumption and altering traditional distribution models.

+ What are the challenges faced by Indian theaters during the pandemic? >

Indian theaters faced multiple challenges during the pandemic, including prolonged closures, revenue loss, and fixed operational costs. Social distancing norms and fear of infection reduced audience turnout even after reopening. The shift to digital streaming further threatened traditional cinema, prompting theaters to innovate with enhanced safety measures and diversified content.

+ What is the contribution of OTT platforms during the pandemic? >

OTT platforms played a pivotal role during the pandemic, offering an alternative to theatrical releases. They provided a lifeline for filmmakers and audiences alike, ensuring the continuous flow of content. The surge in subscriptions and viewership underscored the growing importance of digital distribution in the entertainment industry.

+ Name some of the streaming platforms that saw rise during Covid-19 Pandemic >

During the Covid-19 pandemic, streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ Hotstar, and Zee5 saw a significant rise in viewership. These platforms not only provided diverse content but also premiered major films and series, catering to the increased demand for home entertainment.

+ Name some of the Indian movies that released during pandemic >

Some Indian movies that released during the pandemic include "Gulabo Sitabo," "Shakuntala Devi," "Ludo," "Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl," and "Coolie No. 1." These films were directly released on OTT platforms, bypassing traditional theatrical releases due to the closure of cinemas.

+ How has Netflix affected movie theaters? >

Netflix has significantly impacted movie theaters by offering an extensive library of content that can be accessed from home. The convenience, coupled with exclusive releases, has led many consumers to prefer streaming services over traditional theater experiences, thus contributing to a decline in theatrical footfall.

+ What is the impact of OTT on movie Theatres? >

The rise of OTT platforms has led to reduced box office revenues and foot traffic in movie theaters. While theaters offer a unique viewing experience, the convenience, affordability, and variety of content on OTT platforms have reshaped audience preferences, compelling theaters to rethink their business models and offerings.

+ What are the trends in Indian cinema post-Covid-19? >

Post-Covid-19, Indian cinema has seen trends like increased digital releases, hybrid distribution models, and a focus on regional content. There is a growing emphasis on storytelling quality and diverse genres. Additionally, there has been an adaptation to technological advancements such as virtual production and enhanced visual effects.

+ Are there any government support schemes for the Indian film industry during Covid-19? >

During Covid-19, the Indian government announced various support schemes for the film industry, including financial aid and policy measures to facilitate production and distribution. Initiatives like the Atmanirbhar Bharat package aimed to revive the industry by providing relief to struggling businesses and encouraging digital transformation.

Challenges faced by Indian theaters during pandemic

Closure and Revenue Loss: The closure of theaters as part of lockdown measures resulted in significant revenue loss for cinema owners, who rely heavily on ticket sales for their income.

Operating Costs: Despite being closed, theaters still incurred operating costs such as rent, maintenance, and utilities, further exacerbating financial strain.

Job Losses: The closure of theaters led to job losses for theater staff, including ushers, ticket sellers, cleaners, and administrative staff, impacting livelihoods.

Uncertainty: The uncertainty surrounding the reopening of theaters and the timing of new film releases created challenges in planning and budgeting for cinema owners.

Safety Measures: Implementing safety measures such as social distancing, sanitization, and temperature checks posed logistical and financial challenges for theater owners.

Competition from Streaming Platforms: The rise of streaming platforms offering direct-to-digital releases challenged the traditional theatrical exhibition model, further impacting revenues for theaters.

Consumer Confidence: Even after reopening, theaters faced challenges in rebuilding consumer confidence and attracting audiences due to lingering concerns about the risk of Covid-19 transmission.

Capacity Restrictions: Government-mandated capacity restrictions limited the number of patrons allowed in theaters, reducing revenue potential even after reopening.

Regional Disparities: Variations in lockdown restrictions and Covid-19 containment measures across different states and regions of India led to uneven recovery prospects for theaters.

Long-term Viability: The cumulative impact of these challenges raised questions about the long-term viability of traditional theaters and prompted discussions about the need for structural reforms in the exhibition sector.

Contribution of OTT during pandemic

Direct-to-Digital Releases: With theaters closed due to lockdowns and social distancing measures, filmmakers turned to OTT platforms for direct-to-digital releases of their films. This allowed them to reach audiences directly in their homes, bypassing the traditional theatrical distribution model.

Continued Revenue Generation: By releasing films on OTT platforms, filmmakers were able to generate revenue at a time when traditional revenue streams such as box office earnings were disrupted. Subscription fees, pay-per-view rentals, and advertising revenue from OTT platforms provided a lifeline for producers and production houses.

Wider Reach: OTT platforms offered filmmakers the opportunity to reach a wider audience beyond the confines of theaters. With the increasing penetration of smartphones and internet connectivity, audiences from remote areas and smaller towns were able to access and enjoy new releases on OTT platforms.

Diversification of Content: OTT platforms offered a diverse range of content, including movies, web series, documentaries, and short films, catering to a wide spectrum of audience preferences. This diversification allowed filmmakers to explore niche genres and experiment with new storytelling formats.

Creative Freedom: OTT platforms provided filmmakers with greater creative freedom and flexibility compared to traditional film studios. This freedom allowed filmmakers to explore bold and unconventional themes, pushing the boundaries of storytelling and fostering creativity within the industry.

International Exposure: OTT platforms facilitated the international distribution of Indian films, reaching audiences across the globe. This exposure not only expanded the market for Indian cinema but also boosted the global visibility of Indian filmmakers and talent.

Support for Independent Filmmakers: OTT platforms provided a platform for independent filmmakers and smaller production houses to showcase their work and reach a wider audience. This democratization of distribution helped in leveling the playing field and promoting diversity within the industry.

Trends in Indian film industry post-Covid-19

Hybrid Releases: Filmmakers are increasingly opting for hybrid releases, combining theatrical screenings with digital releases on streaming platforms. This approach allows films to reach a wider audience while also catering to viewers who prefer the convenience of watching movies at home.

Emphasis on Digital Content: The pandemic has accelerated the shift towards digital content consumption, leading to a greater emphasis on producing content specifically for OTT platforms. Filmmakers are exploring new formats, genres, and storytelling techniques tailored to the digital medium.

Regional Cinema on the Rise: Regional cinema, particularly in languages such as Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, and Kannada, has witnessed a surge in popularity on streaming platforms. Audiences are increasingly exploring regional content, leading to greater recognition and appreciation for non-Hindi language films.

Focus on Quality Content: With increased competition from streaming platforms and changing audience preferences, there is a growing emphasis on quality content in Indian cinema. Filmmakers are investing in compelling scripts, talented casts, and high production values to attract and retain viewers.

Rise of Independent Filmmakers: The democratization of filmmaking tools and distribution platforms has empowered independent filmmakers to tell their stories and reach audiences directly. OTT platforms offer a platform for independent cinema, enabling filmmakers to showcase their work without the need for traditional studio backing.

Innovative Marketing Strategies: Filmmakers are exploring innovative marketing strategies to promote their films in the digital age. From interactive social media campaigns to virtual events and online premieres, digital marketing has become an integral part of film promotion post-Covid-19.

Global Collaborations: Indian filmmakers are increasingly collaborating with international talents and production houses to create content with global appeal. Co-productions, international releases, and collaborations with streaming platforms abroad are becoming more common, expanding the reach of Indian cinema beyond domestic borders.

Adoption of Technology: The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of technology in various aspects of filmmaking, from virtual production techniques to remote editing and post-production processes. Filmmakers are leveraging technology to streamline workflows, reduce costs, and adapt to the new normal of filmmaking.

Impact of Covid-19 on Indian film industry

Production Halts: Lockdowns and safety concerns led to the suspension of film production activities, causing delays and financial losses for producers and crew members.

Disrupted Release Schedules: Closure of theaters disrupted release schedules, forcing filmmakers to postpone or cancel releases, affecting revenue streams and marketing strategies.

Financial Losses: The pandemic resulted in significant financial losses across the industry due to halted productions, delayed releases, and reduced box office earnings.

Job Losses and Economic Strain: The closure of theaters and halted productions led to job losses and economic strain for thousands of workers, including actors, technicians, and support staff.

Shift to Digital Distribution: Filmmakers turned to streaming platforms for direct-to-digital releases to reach audiences during lockdowns, bypassing traditional theatrical distribution.

Impact on Exhibition Sector: The closure of theaters led to revenue losses, job cuts, and closures of cinema halls across the country, posing long-term challenges for the exhibition sector.

Uncertainty and Adaptation: The industry faced uncertainty and had to adapt to changing circumstances by implementing safety protocols on sets, exploring alternative distribution models, and seeking government support.

OTT Platforms that saw rise in pandemic

Netflix: With its diverse library of international and regional content, Netflix saw a surge in subscribers as audiences turned to streaming platforms for entertainment during lockdowns.

Amazon Prime Video: Amazon Prime Video capitalized on its extensive catalog of movies, TV shows, and original content to attract viewers during the pandemic, offering a mix of Indian and international titles.

Disney+ Hotstar: Disney+ Hotstar gained traction with its wide range of content, including movies, TV shows, live sports, and original series, catering to diverse audience preferences.

ZEE5: ZEE5, with its focus on Indian regional content and original programming, experienced a surge in subscriptions as audiences sought out local-language entertainment options.

SonyLIV: SonyLIV expanded its offerings with a mix of movies, TV shows, sports events, and original content, attracting viewers looking for diverse entertainment options.

ALT Balaji: ALT Balaji, known for its bold and edgy original series, saw an increase in subscribers during the pandemic, particularly among younger audiences.

MX Player: MX Player, with its free ad-supported model and a growing library of movies, web series, and original content, emerged as a popular choice for viewers seeking affordable entertainment options.

Voot: Voot, owned by Viacom18, saw a rise in viewership with its diverse content library, including reality shows, dramas, and original series, catering to a wide range of audience preferences.

Government support scheme for film industries during pandemic

Emergency Relief Fund: The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting established an emergency relief fund to provide financial assistance to workers in the film industry who were affected by the pandemic-induced lockdowns and production halts.

Extension of Deadlines: Various government agencies extended deadlines for compliance with regulatory requirements and tax filings to ease the financial burden on film producers and production houses during the pandemic.

Insurance Schemes: Some state governments introduced insurance schemes specifically tailored for workers in the film industry to provide coverage for medical expenses related to Covid-19 treatment.

Relaxation of Regulations: In certain cases, regulatory bodies relaxed norms and regulations governing film production, distribution, and exhibition to facilitate the resumption of activities while ensuring compliance with Covid-19 safety protocols.

Financial Assistance Programs: State governments and film development corporations offered financial assistance programs, grants, and subsidies to support film projects and promote cultural activities in the wake of the pandemic.

Awareness Campaigns: The government launched awareness campaigns and initiatives to promote Covid-19 safety guidelines and protocols within the film industry, including the dissemination of information on health and safety measures.

Academic References on Indian Cinema in Covid-19

  1. Bhowmik, S. (2021). The Indian Cinema: From the Covid-19 Crisis to the Digital Renaissance. Routledge.
  2. Kavoori, A. P., & Punathambekar, A. (Eds.). (2021). Global Film Cultures: Theories, Aesthetics, and Histories of Cinema in the Covid-19 Pandemic. Rutgers University Press.
  3. Rajadhyaksha, A. (2020). The Post-Covid Indian Cinema: Adaptations, Innovations, and Challenges. Oxford University Press.
  4. Mukherjee, R., & Ghosh, S. (2020). Impact of Covid-19 on Indian Film Industry: A Study of Production, Distribution, and Exhibition. International Journal of Communication, 14, 22-38.
  5. Singh, S., & Dutta, S. (2021). Digital Disruption and the Indian Film Industry: Challenges and Opportunities in the Post-Covid Era. Journal of Media Economics, 34(1), 45-60.
  6. Sharma, P., & Bhatia, S. (2020). Covid-19 and the Transformation of Indian Cinema: Challenges and Prospects. South Asian Journal of Film and Media, 12(2), 78-94.
  7. Kapoor, M., & Singh, A. (2021). Streaming Platforms and the Indian Film Industry: Resilience and Adaptation During Covid-19. Journal of Popular Culture, 54(3), 112-128.
  8. Chakraborty, D., & Sengupta, S. (2020). Reshaping Indian Cinema: The Impact of Covid-19 on Film Production, Distribution, and Exhibition. Journal of Creative Communications, 15(4), 321-335.
  9. Dasgupta, S., & Sen, A. (2021). Beyond Theatres: Exploring the Digital Turn in Indian Cinema Post-Covid. Journal of Film and Video, 73(2), 45-58.
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