1018mb: The on-demand theatrical screening service bringing back favourites to the silver screen
The other day I was on the interwebz looking for a good film to watch in the cinema hall. As I browsed through the show timings of one harebrained Bollywood movie after another, I was shocked to find a show for Guru Dutt's 1957 cinematic masterpiece Pyaasa.
Expanding the details of the show, I saw that the screening of the movie was being held at a theatre in Andheri in Mumbai — a slight distance away from where I live, but kilometers I would happily travel in order to have an authentic viewing experience of the piece of art that is Pyaasa — on a big screen. The show was almost booked out.
In a world where mostly newly released, commercial, big-budget films sell and make a profit, it was a refreshing change to see a yesteryear movie being screened once again, and getting such a good response from the audience on top of that. The portal through which Pyaasa was being showcased was a site called 1018mb, and I had to say, my curiosity was piqued.
I set about doing my research on what 1018mb was all about and came across a bunch of interesting things. 1018mb is an on-request theatrical screening start-up which screens classics and other old titles that were well received at the time of their release, along with showing unreleased movies and India's latest releases across regions. All a user has to do is log onto their site, pick a movie title from their pre-existing library, create an event (selecting the venue for the screening along with the show timing) and wait for a certain quota of seats to be filled up in order for the show to be confirmed. Many of the screenings are often followed up by interactive sessions with the directors, cast and crew members of the movie that is being shown.
In an interview with Firstpost, 1018mb co-founder Saurabh Devendra Singh revealed that he feels the other members of the team "hate him for the nerdy name" of their company (owing to his tech savvy background). 1018 mb (megabytes) is six megabytes short of 1 gigabyte. The missing gigabytes are supposed to be the six member co-founding team of 1018mb comprising Jab We Met actor Saumya Tandon, Saurabh Devendra Singh, Shishir Ranjan, Santhosh Sundaram and Abhay Salve.
They make up the five human elements of this team. The sixth member is rounded off by their analytics engine — an Artificial Intelligence-enabled algorithm that predicts the rate of success of a movie and its screening, keeping past patterns into account. The algorithm takes into consideration the time slot and location of the venue where the film is to be screened, along with keeping the potential audience members in mind (for example, each member's social media presence and activeness). Employing these methods, 1018mb has more or less came up with a fail safe theory which ensures a good success rate for most of their screenings.
During the chat, Singh recalled how the most unexpected people have helped 1018mb out ever since its inception. From Priti Sinha (daughter of Andaz Apna Apna producer Vinay Kumar Sinha) to filmmakers like Imtiaz Ali, Anurag Kashyap and Dibaker Banerjee, Singh feels it has been a combined team effort through and through.
Delving into the experience with the Gangs of Wasseypur director Anurag Kashyap in particular, Singh said that he never expected the esteemed filmmaker to reply to the simple e-mail that had been sent asking him to drop in for a screening (both Gangs of Wasseypur and Black Friday were being screened at the time). Not only did Kashyap show up for a screening of Black Friday (a show that had one of the best interactive sessions afterwards, in 1018mb history), but the filmmaker also brought along a Digital Cinema Package (DCP — a collection of digital files used to store and convey digital cinema (DC) audio, image, and data streams) from France, cleaned up and restored specially for the 1018mb screening as the company's DCP had gotten corrupted the night before the show.
Another screening that was memorable for moviegoers was when R Madhavan flew down all the way from Hyderabad on his birthday (on a hot weekday afternoon) for a screening of his film Saala Khadoos. Singh says he wasn't expecting even the general public to show up, much less a superstar of Madhavan's stature. All in all, it is the love of films and interacting with genuinely enthusiastic audiences that probably makes these renowned personalities make that extra effort, feels the co-founder — although he is not sure. All he knows is he's glad that 1018mb has been subject to these personalities' goodwill.
1018mb's "dream" is to become an independent distributor of movies in the long run. According to Singh, 95 percent of movies from the Indian film industry fail due to having an inefficient distribution system in which the small scale, small budget films suffer the most and do not fare well in terms of profits. He feels that in five years' time, the current suppliers market will evolve into a buyers' market (where movies are made according to what the viewer wants), and he wishes that 1018mb succeeds in its aim to come up with an efficient way to find and subsequently provide the required audience when the market does make its shift. He also wishes that the company finally get films made that are efficiently distributed and which won't lose out, no matter what their budget may be.
1018mb looks like a game changer in the world of cinema and the way film distribution is done in India and all Singh hopes is that one day 1018mb does not become a case study for a second year MBA student on how not to scope a business.