I had this nice little twat (that’s not a Twitter Spat – it is a Twitter Chat!) about outrage against bad films (subjective, I know), with Vijayeta (@sacredinsanity). In hindsight, I realize she was referring to outrage generally, while I was talking from an online outrage point of view.

I had touched on this topic earlier, back in May 2010 – “Where is the audience?”, asks leading Indian film maker!

But the question, from my discussion with Vijayeta remains – do online opinions impact a film’s performance? And, as Vijayeta puts it, do a few opinions online match against a billion+ people in the country?

I have just 3 points to add to that – the reason why I’m converting this into a blog post.

1. Long before Twitter, Facebook, Blogs and all these social properties were invented, we were still sharing opinions on films on day one of its release. The early adopters were sharing these opinions. But there was a physical and geographical barrier to how much those opinions can spread further. So, it may be restricted to a few people, in a city/cities. But now, the same opinions are being amplified online across cities/geographies. A preview show in London on a Thursday night can have a ripple effect on the first-day-first-show of the same Hindi film on Friday morning! How? Because the number of people connected online across countries decide to delay the trip to the cinema if the opinions are not that good…as against rushing for the first show in the morning.

2. That ‘we’re a country of billion+’ is one of my favorite lines and I have used it very often too! The number of internet users versus the total population is indeed massively skewed, but what we may be missing here is the cascading effect. Why should we assume that ‘online is what online does’? Can’t it go from online to offline, as it happens so often? Why can’t someone reading negative tweets about a film (say, a college student), share that with a lot of his college mates, offline, while seated in the campus cafeteria? How would that impact the movie’s chances? I assume it would. So, for a commodity like films, that relies more on passion and less on logic, such instant opinions may perhaps matter more than we think. That would be vastly different from other products, like cars, for instance. They have multiple touch points and we end up spending a lot more than what we do for a cinema…so, logic takes precedence over impulsive opinions, when it comes to decision making.

This could also explain why Tees Maar Khan’s collections dropped dramatically starting Monday onwards, after a great 3 day weekend – that is, if internet penetration was much higher in India and a LOT more people were connected via social properties, the drop in collections may have possibly started from Friday or Saturday onwards too, going by the overwhelming negative sentiment online and from mainstream reviewers. But given the state of internet penetration in India, the news needed a 3 day period to fully travel – news, as in, the negative buzz both online and offline. See Taran Adarsh’s tweet on the same…

‘Tees Maar Khan’ has huge weekend, yet below expectations, drops on Monday http://bit.ly/bbkhW4

3. Specifically, we may be more attuned and interested in pulling down hyped films. Tees Maar Khan had a lot of hype, compared to the other 2 films Vijayeta was referring to – Rajshri’s Isi Life Mein and Ajay Devgn starrer, Toonpur Ka Superhero. While I agree with her point that if they are bad films, we people should be equally scathing towards them too, somehow, it may not feel half as exciting as dissing them, compared to dissing Tees Maar Khan. That’s plain old mob mentality, I suppose. Please note that I’m not making any assumption about the perceived quality of Tees Maar Khan (No, I’m not from the Shah Rukh Khan camp!!) – I haven’t seen it, nor do I have any intention of seeing it anytime soon; may just catch it when it premieres in some television channel soon.

Incidentally, New York Times did a piece that touched on this topic, recently – ‘Hollywood moves away from middlebrow movies‘. Some relevant excerpts from that piece…

“When negative Twitter commentary seemingly torpedoed the Sacha Baron Cohen film â??Brünoâ? in July 2009, movie executives started talking in solemn tones about the ability of social networking to sway attendance. The era of using marketing to trick consumers into seeing bad movies was drawing to a close.”

“…studios are finally and fully conceding that moviegoers, armed with Facebook and other networking tools and concerned about escalating ticket prices, are holding them to higher standards. The product has to be good. “