Who says that movie houses are a dying industry? Despite suggestions of over-priced tickets, stiffer competition from online movie downloads and streaming and being an outdated medium, South African cinema chain Ster-Kinekor seems to be doing all the right things. Michael Bratt takes a look.
Recently the media giant announced that the number of people during a week who flocked to its movies hit an all-time high. This on the back of the national release of the latest instalment in the Fast and the Furious franchise. The previous attendance record for a week was logged back in 1997, during the period when Titanic was released. Furious 7 also smashed the previous box office record for a weekend by 25%.
Before that a record number of people gathered on Valentine’s Day for the arrival of Fifty Shades of Grey. The film saw Ster-Kinekor beating its previous best box office for a single day by 47 percent, on an inflation adjusted basis. Doug Place, marketing executive for Ster-Kinekor Theatres, also explained that other records were broken by Fifty Shades. “It was also the biggest Valentine’s Day and the busiest Saturday in terms of attendances at our sites countrywide, beating the previous record by 14%.”
Ryan Williams, group sales strategy and marketing executive at Primedia, says the reason cinema is continuing to thrive is because “it is not just about the content on screen, it’s also about going out with a group of friends and socialising”. Responding to the over-priced ticket discussion Williams explained that South Africa is the second cheapest market in the world, behind Kenya, in terms of movie pricing, on a constant currency basis. He also says there are a range of discount schemes which movie goers can take advantage of to make their tickets cheaper.
The IMAX format seems to be key to Ster-Kinekor’s future plans. Two new ones are being planned for June. One will be a refurbishment of the company’s existing site at Cradlestone Mall in Krugersdorp and the other will be a new offering at Baywest Mall in Port Elizabeth. Another IMAX is planned for September at Eastgate Mall. The expansion of its 3D offering is also a key area of focus for the company. “There are more ways to watch film now so there will be a natural segmentation of the market. You can’t duplicate an IMAX experience at home or a quality 3D experience,” Williams said.
But it is not only blockbusters which are drawing movie-goers. Ster-Kinekor also offers screenings of sports events including mixed martial arts from the Extreme Fighting Championship. Concerts and plays can also be watched at the cinemas.
The rest of the year is looking promising for Ster-Kinekor. Avengers: Age of Ultron was released this past weekend in South Africa, ahead of the rest of the world, and is expected to draw big numbers for both box office and attendance. Several top franchises also have sequels coming out in the second half of 2015. These include the Despicable Me series’ Minions movie, the next James Bond film, Spectre, the new Star Wars film which is now under the Disney stable, the new Jurassic Park movie, the latest instalment in the Mission Impossible franchise and the final chapter in the Hunger Games series. With so many blockbusters coming out with the potential to record big numbers, Williams has described 2015 as “the year of movies”.
This is the first in our new series, Pockets of Excellence, that will look at media companies or people performing at optimum level. Follow Michael Bratt on Twitter @michaelbratt8
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