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Senthil Kumar Interview: Qube Cinema’s Founder On Being Invited To ‘The Academy’, Movie Watching In A Post-COVID19 World And More

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Senthil Kumar, who’s the Co-Founder of Qube Cinema, has been invited to be a member of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences under the ‘Members-At-Large’ category. The invite comes in recognition of his contribution to the Indian cinema industry. Qube Cinema is an end-to-end digital cinema technology and solutions provider. The firm has presence in 48 countries and has digital cinema operations in 4,000 cinema screens across India (which reportedly amounts to 42% of Indian screens.)

Senthil Kumar spoke to Silverscreen India about the Oscars’ invite, the OTT vs Theatre debate, movie watching in a post-COVID19 world and more.

What does the invite from The Academy mean to you?

This invitation to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was a wonderful but very unexpected surprise, especially because I don’t have creative credits on any notable movies which is the more common path to Academy membership. But as someone with a passion for cinema and a deep family history in the movie industry, as someone who has worked on many different aspects of movies from shooting to editing to sound with an understanding of production, post-production and exhibition, and as someone in both the business and technology of cinema, with exposure to worldwide markets as well as many of India’s different movie industries, I think I have the right mix of knowledge and experience to play a role in advocating some of the Academy’s processes in India as well as increasing Indians’ membership and participation in the Academy.

What do you like about the Academy and its functioning?

The Academy has a truly inspirational mission that it performs by “preserving the past, honoring the present, and shaping the future of motion pictures.” In India, we need to do so much more to preserve the past because it’s not just the distant past that’s lost, it’s even the more recent past where the source footage of movies or the final digital source masters are not preserved. And we need to honour our present much better through a process of peers nominating and voting for their peers so that our awards are valued even more.

What/who are some of your favourite films and talent that have been chosen for the Oscars?

I have so many favourites amongst the Oscar winners over the years… The Godfather, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Gandhi, Amadeus, A Beautiful Mind, Birdman

Do you wish South Indian content had more visibility in the race to Oscars in India?

Not just South Indian, I do feel that all of India’s regional movie industries need to move out of the shadow of the Hindi film industry. And we need to improve our process for Oscar selection in the International films category. Basically, nomination and voting by a large number of qualified experts for each award is always better than a jury because a jury is a small number of people and they will often be forced to compromise.

Any Indian films that you think were Oscar-worthy in recent years?

Kaaka Muttai is one movie that comes to mind immediately. It didn’t make it to the final nominations unfortunately but it should have had a good shot at best international film…

Can you tell us about the impact of COVID19 on Qube and how you plan on bouncing back post-lockdown? What does the future look like for you, with the burgeoning OTT market?

COVID-19 has had a terrible impact on the entire cinema industry and of course on Qube as well. Because theatres are closed, we have had virtually no revenue since the lockdown began. We’ve done a lot to improve our backend systems and reduce costs in this period so we will be significantly more efficient when theatres reopen. While OTT plays an important part in the entertainment industry, I have no doubt that theatres will bounce back to being the most significant revenue stream for movies once they reopen because nothing comes close to the theatrical experience due of the size and quality of the picture and sound and most importantly, the social aspect of watching a movie with family and friends, surrounded by other people who share your emotions, and with no remote control in your hands!

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