Despite the massive size of the Indian film industry, fewer than 4% of Indians regularly go to the movies due to cost, access, and safety issues.15 The cost of seeing a film in the theater has gone up in recent decades and many families cannot afford this entertainment luxury. Additionally, viewers who live in small towns and villages often do not have access to movie theaters. India has fewer movie screens per capita than most other industrialized nations. For example, there are approximately 13,000 movie theaters in India compared to 40,000 theaters in the United
States, a country with only one quarter of India’s population. Additionally, far fewer women than men attend the cinema in India due to safety concerns. This means the Indian film industries are losing profits because some female filmgoers do not feel safe.

Indians spend more time watching films on television than going to the cinema. Nine-in-ten Indians have televisions in their homes and most households with TV also have cable television. Films are shown on Indian television only a few months after they are released, so many people wait to view films at home. Many parents prefer TV viewing to film viewing for their children because strict national laws require television stations to edit out sexual scenes, dialogue, and excessive violence.

Cinema and Society: Shaping our Worldview: Beyond the Lens Investigation on the Impact of Gender Representation in Indian Films, Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, OAK Foundation, 2016

Yet another reason representation in media is so important. Art can help us influence society and culture, and create a safe space for women (and all people) — a literal safe space, where you can just go to the movie theater and watch a film in peace. And if you only watch movies on TV or rarely (maybe someone brings a projector to a small town/village) it’s even more crucial to have positive representation. If I see 100 movies a year, it’s easier to handle 10% with crummy women. If I see only a few movies a year (or ever), well. . . .

Posted by Natasha

Natasha received her MA in Literature and Culture in 2008 from Oregon State University. Currently she lives in Oregon with her husband and cats.

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