Local movie theatres lost 80% of their income - forcing them to become creative

Business Insider SA
Nu metro
Nu Metro's Xtreme cinema theatre. (Image: Supplied/Nu Metro)
  • Last year, local box office income shrank by more than 80% to R200 million due to the pandemic.
  • This forced Ster-Kineko to file for business rescue last month.
  • Its competitor Nu Metro is now experimenting with new options - including live stream music concerts and festivals - to lure people back.
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The South African box office lost as much as 83% of revenue last year, as lockdown regulations and the pandemic kept movie fans at home.

The National Film and Video Foundation reports that income from movies only came to R200 million. In 2019, the industry had released 190 movie titles, and generated as much as R1.2 billion. In 2020, only 96 titles were released.

Cinemas took a big knock when the country was forced into hard lockdown in March last year, with theatres closed for five months. In addition, the pandemic stopped film production across the world, and releases of big attractions - including the long-delayed new James Bond movie No Time To Die - were postponed, or moved to streaming services.

Until the blockbusters return to the big screens, cinema theatres will remain in the dark for longer.

Last month, Ster Kinekor - the almost 50-year-old company that operates 53 theatres in South Africa - filed for voluntary business rescue.

Competitor Nu Metro said it is in good financial standing and that patrons have started returning to its theatres, although not nearly close to last year's levels before Covid hit.

The company is now pinning its hopes on the return of the major blockbusters, most of which have been pushed to the second half of 2021, Chantelle Burrows, Nu Metro Cinemas’ marketing and content executive, told Business Insider South Africa.

It has also added alternative content to its line-up of entertainment such as live stream music concerts across various genres, as well as festivals.

“One of the concepts we’re implementing is a music concert that we’re going to be streaming directly into our cinemas so people can buy tickets and come and watch,” she said.

The group plans to host the concerts monthly.

“Other ideas that we have are specific festivals that we’re developing such as a Bollywood festival or a local film festival or a horror festival. We’re creating all these festivals that will hopefully drive some excitement,” said Burrows.

The company said it is also looking at enhancing its operations including improving customer experience. 

Burrows viewed TV and film streaming services such as Netflix and Showmax as parallel industry and not a direct competitors to cinemas.

“They [streaming services] sell movies, we don’t sell the movies, we sell the experience. The innovation is really going to come from how we can make the experience so much richer for our customers,” she said.

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