Multiplying Multiplexes

Doesn’t it seem strange that the concept of multiplexes had to be sold to a reluctant management? The prevailing belief was that the market was already saturated with theatres. In the early 90s, Peter Guber, the CEO of Sony Pictures saw the opportunity to serve those who needed a larger spread of films to ‘consume emotionally’ during their visit to the theatres. Single serve or single screen cinemas were just not enough.  The spread of digital cinema theatres and projection also brought about a drastic drop in the investment in prints, enabling producers to duplicate and retain control over the content to a certain extent.

Like Amores Perros, three independent tracks were converging to crash and it would have a permanent effect on movie making. Production. Distribution. And Piracy. The problem of piracy was changing box office economics – recover the money in a few short weeks or was gone forever. The studios were in a race to beat the pirates, ramp up the number of theatres the film would open in and cut costs as well. But to build up the buzz for a movie so that it opened well is a herculean task. And here’s a glimpse of the complexity that a worldwide release of Avatar had to contend with:

From The Hollywood ReporterIn total, there were 18 different versions of “Avatar” created for the domestic market, plus an additional 92 for international markets, which were released in 47 languages. The international versions included more than 52 subtitled and 18 dubbed versions on film, 58 subtitled and 36 dubbed versions in digital 3D, nine subtitled and eight dubbed versions in digital 2D, and 23 subtitled and 15 dubbed versions for Imax.The interesting part is – Avatar was not just the highest grossing film of all time, but also the most pirated – more than a million torrents downloaded in 2010