The media had rung the death knell on theatres and the concept of cinemagoing; statistics showed a steep decline in audiences going to movie theatres to watch films. Moreover, films shifted, literally and in the making, to the smaller screen, with several releases on OTT platforms. However, in the last year, there seems to have been a reemergence of the cinematic experience as the primary choice, as opposed to one among many.

Some surveys suggest that during the pandemic, India lost over 24 million cinemagoers, according to a report called Sizing the Cinema. It also suggested that the Hindi movie-viewing audience shrank by around 20%. Several multiplexes faced immense losses due to the abrupt lockdown and sanitation measures, leaving theatres around the world lifeless. Similarly, abroad, companies like Regal Cinema were forced to shut down, given the extent of their losses.

However, 2023 has also been a year of cinema revival, opening with Shah Rukh Khan’s mega-blockbuster, Pathaan, his great comeback film. Metted out to be quintessentially Bollywood down to the last shot, it was also an ode to the true Bollywood cinematic experience: camp, chock-full of machismo and physics-defying stunts, and most importantly, larger than life. It led to the reopening of 22 cinemas across India, which had once been bankrupted by strains of the pandemic. However, just a few months down the line, we lay witness to perhaps the largest cinematic release of Barbie and Oppenheimer, or as colloquially known, Barbenheimer.

Two films, not belonging to huge cinema franchises, managed to pull more eyeballs to the screen than most films in the past decade. It was the way the two played with familiar ideas and the way they connected to common political issues like feminism or the nuclear race, which already resided in the minds of the people (that isn’t to say their extensive marketing programmes had nothing to do with their popularity). Other releases coming up in September, like Shah Rukh Khan’s Jawaan, are also expected to fill theatres to the brim.

While we saw the palpable switch to the small screen in the pandemic, or OTT platforms like Netflix or Hulu, which gained popularity for their efficiency, accessibility, and considerable lack of censorship (especially in India), it seems as though for audiences none of this trumps the community experience of watching a movie in a hall, especially the big over-the-top productions. Movies have always relied on the masses for viewership and communication. Studies suggest the idea of sitting in a cinema hall creates a degree of escapism but, more importantly, allows one to espouse some semblance of belonging, a comforting thought after the pandemic of loneliness most have faced. With the combination of the grandiosity of movie theatres as well as the sense of community they provide, where every laugh and tear is shared, it’s no surprise that cinema, as it was imagined to be, is here to stay—on the big screen.

Read also: Barbie: A Review

Featured Image Credits: Hocmarketing.org

Chaharika Uppal
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Greta Gerwig’s long-publicized film took theatres by storm this Summer and has become one of the highest-grossing movies of all time.

After months of rigorous marketing and anticipation, people expected grandeur from Barbie and that’s what it delivers. Apart from its over-the-top production, Barbie also manages to bring a fresh concept to the fantasy genre which had started to seem repetitive and saturated. The movie has been carefully crafted in order to cater to all kinds of audiences, irrespective of age.

The film follows the Mattel doll ‘stereotypical Barbie’ and her many variants, who live in a whimsical world where everything is monotonous and perfect. When Barbie starts noticing human traits such as thoughts about mortality, body image issues, she and Ken go to the real world to figure out how to ‘fix’ her. She discovers that unlike Barbieland, which is run by all the empowered dolls Mattel released, the real world is patriarchal and a much harsher place for women. Ken, however, is overjoyed by how much power men have in the real world and heads back to rule Barbieland with the other Kens.

The film is ridiculously witty and has done satire really well. There are unique comedic elements such as the break of the fourth wall or jokes about real issues such as Mattel’s incapacities and Ruth Handler’s problems with the IRS. The dig at the ‘Pride and Prejudice watching depressed Barbie’ caters to a very specific niche and shows that the makers of the movie knew their main audience really well. The costume design of the show is impressive as it remakes actual doll clothes that were released by Mattel throughout the years and is a treat for fashion enthusiasts. The performances by Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling are stellar. The cameos and the musical aspect also add significantly to the overall allure of Barbie.

While the movie ends by portraying the obviously rightful message regarding how no gender should overshadow the other, it does so bleakly. The feminist ideals and dialogues presented are not fresh. But what compensates for it is the unique medium through which a familiar message has been reiterated. The creation of dolls in the image of powerful women and their idolization is inspiring but does not change anything for women in reality. In fact, it sets the precedent for women to “appreciate” the opportunities they now have and make the most of them when women shouldn’t have to always do something extraordinary in order to be paid mind to. This message from America Ferrera’s character is the main power of the film.

Greta’s artistic vision to deliver such a new idea is laudable and so is Mattel’s involvement and accountability. Considering how wide of an audience this movie reached, even if the main point stayed a bit two-dimensional, for many people it might just have been the first step toward understanding the nuances of feminism.

Overall, ‘Barbie’ is a fun, visually stunning and hilarious movie with great performances that leave you inspired. What is that if not cinema at its best?

Read also: The Pitfalls of Therapy-Speak

Featured image credits: Elle Magazine

Arshiya Pathania

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