Cinemas & other platforms will co-exist in the long run: Nitin Bikhchandani

NBCUniversal was set launch some of its biggest franchises in 2020 – namely, ‘James Bond: No Time To Die’, ‘Fast & Furious 9’, ‘Minions: The Rise Of Gru’, ‘Trolls: World Tour’, etc; apart from several other projects. However, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, all of these have been either postponed or pushed to 2021. There have been several developments globally and nationally in NBCUniversal post these announcements; basically developments on how to deal with the long term effects of the lockdown and concrete steps to ensure market presence.

In conversation with Adgully, Nitin Bikhchandani, General Manager, NBCUniversal Media LLC, speaks about how the studio is engaging with its audience during the time when cinema halls are shut and why the company remains optimistic about the future.  

The pandemic has caused all-round disruptions. NBCUniversal has had to put on hold most of its blockbuster movie releases. Now with lockdown restrictions being lifted in India, what are your plans to make those blockbuster films available for the Indian audience?

We have ‘Trolls: World Tour’ lined up for release when cinemas open. The film is a sequel, potential blockbuster in an animations genre and will release in both 3D and 2D in English and Hindi. The film will also be made available in IMAX and 4DX.

‘No Time To Die’ will see the return of Daniel Craig in his final appearance as James Bond in the 25th instalment of the James Bond film series. The film is slated to release world-wide in November this year, which will coincide with the Diwali festivities in India. The film is hugely anticipated and is dubbed in multiple local languages. We have also other films lined up this year, which include ‘Let Him Go’, ‘Candyman’ and ‘Halloween Kills’, to name a few.

‘Fast & Furious 9’ and ‘Minions: The Rise of Gru’ are slated to release world-wide next year on April 2 and July 2, respectively. We are optimistic about the future. Theatrical releases will always remain important to the business.

With the virus slated to remain among our midst for a long time, we have to learn to live with it and observe all safety precautions such as masks, social distancing, hygiene. With this there will be changes in cinema going habits. How will movie marketing strategies change?

We will continue to explore and innovate as marketing is always evolving over a period of time. Our films are marketed on all key platforms, including cinemas. Digital, Television and cinema advertisement will remain key drivers to increase reach and the engagement.

Q1 has been a washout. What is your outlook about the way forward?

Our upcoming films for theatrical release have been pushed to a later date amid the COVID-19 pandemic as cinema halls are currently closed. This is an unprecedented situation. The present may be challenging, but it is impossible not to feel optimistic about the future, given the long-term strength of our company, after we get through this crisis. The year 2021 will bring the return of our tentpole films like ‘Fast & Furious 9’ and ‘Minions: The Rise of Gru’ and lots of other titles. We continue to remain committed and bring the best in the line-up.

What is your take on the new normal? Will there be a shift in behaviour of your audience when it comes to watching movies?

There is a lot of understandable fear and anxiety about the future and it will be difficult to predict how exactly the new normal will be in the long run. Hopefully, soon the virus will go away and we all will return to normal, but with lessons learnt on social distancing, hygiene and taking good care of ourselves and families. We have seen in this lockdown that digital consumption has drastically gone up as we are all locked up with no alternative.  When things return to normal and cinemas re-open, new titles will get lined-up, we will gradually see the attendance coming back to cinemas, as we are primarily social beings – we want to get out and entertain ourselves. Overall, both cinemas and other platforms will co-exist in the long run and it will have relevance in the entire eco-system. Consumers are becoming more discerning in their choices and have higher expectations on products so they will continue to play a major part in how the films are made, marketed and distributed.

Till the time cinema halls reopen, how are you engaging with your audience? 

We are keeping our audiences engaged on our social media platforms by all relevant feeds through trivia and interesting stories built on our great IPs that are put out on social media.

There is already a dedicated fan base on Fast & Furious, Minions, Jurassic World and other IPs, we keep them posted with all the stories that connect and build the family. We recently celebrated the Happy Dinosaurs Day on June 1, that got interactions and recall to our Jurassic World brand. We also had a Minions social distancing campaign internationally with WHO on social media that was received well.

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