WHAT’S COMING THROUGH THE WINDOW
Nu Metro FEATURE
With the world cinema industry caught in controversy and facing opportunities and dangers. Colin Chinery talks to Fay Amaral, Managing Director of South African entertainment leader Nu Metro.
torm in a mad hatter’s tea cup? That’s actor Michael Sheen White Rabbit in the ‘Alice’ movie -dismissing the ‘Window’ row embroiling the cinema industry. Window is the time space between a movie’s screening and the DVD release. It’s shortening and the studios are pushing to shrink it further, cutting promotion costs and boosting falling DVD sales. Cinema owners fear they will lose at the box office. Window aside, this is no tea party time for cinema exhibitors. The pull of evermore sophisticated home entertainment is www.southafricamag.com
Nu Metro FEATURE
challenging Big Screen appeal, and rampant piracy threatening its very financial viability. “Piracy and the level of downloads is a very very real problem in territories like South Africa,” says Fay Amaral. “Up to 50% of the industry is being eroded by pirate sales.” Amaral, 39, is Managing Director of South African entertainment giant Nu Metro, representing five of the major Hollywood studios, owner of seven of the top ten cinemas in the country, 27 sites throughout South Africa and fast expanding across the African continent. Its interests extend into DVD, home entertainment, films and interactive. “I participate in all camps but if the window shrinks then from the exhibition perspective
it’s more difficult to make the money. Then you have to ask whether the shortened windows promote legitimate sales on DVD more actively?” Making money out of exhibition is not easy says Amaral. “It’s not a hugely lucrative business model. We are in effect taking up retail space and paying property moguls for it. And our financial models don’t always go in line with consumer goods - it’s not as easy to move the price of film tickets as it is the price of a packet of soap.” The Window issue she says is a “very sensitive area. But somewhere within these camps there should be a model that can ultimately work in the best interests of all
I’m a big advocate of change, of reacting positively and addressing change
that completed a commercial cycle – from theatrical window to sell thru – gathered dust, we have now redefined this.
While the African film industry is one the oldest in the world, the continent’s film makers have struggled with a modern key to growth and development – marketing and distribution.
ut a ground-breaking initiative spearheaded by M-Net, pioneer in South African Pay TV, in association with South African entertainment giant NU Metro, is making a major impact on the maximising and sustained exposure of African films. “Making African produced film and documentaries accessible to Africans are a major driver of any strategy to grow the African film industry,” says Mike Dearham, Head: M-Net Sales & Library Acquisition. “Distribution is the key and a pre-requisite to any serious discussion on growth strategy for the African film industry.” While acquiring premier content is one aspect of its partnership with Nu Metro, another is the sale and promotion of M-Net owned content both in South Africa and internationally. And the Africa Film Library is a core project. “We work closely with Nu Metro in selling and promoting its contents in Africa and more recently beyond. This is the cornerstone of the partnership,” says Mike Dearham. “The new African Film Library (AFL) initiative offers a radical Pan-African solution to the historic challenge of distribution.” And says Dearham, in its quest to contribute to the modernization of film distribution services on the continent, M-Net will utilize conventional and new media - digital and internet broadband - distribution approaches.
“As a result we have established a new source of revenue for old films whilst breaking new ground through delivery of this content through new media platforms”
Over the years various initiatives have been created by broadcasters, film related associations, policy bodies and the private sector. But none has managed to successfully mitigate the complex socio-economic factors that hamper sustainable development of the African film industry. For each film N-Met has acquired rights for all language versions and will be eventually made available in at least 4 languages - Portuguese, French, English and Arabic. “Each film has its own audience in Africa and Africa Diaspora – our role is to find those audiences and provide them high quality access – through whatever means available. We are investing in the growth and development of the African Film and TV industry” Many in the independent filmmaking sector have hailed M-Net’s African Film Library Initiative as a significant advance in the growth and development of the African Film industry. The majority of top African cineastes including such as Ousmane Sembene – often referred to ass the Father of African Cinema - have entrusted M-Net with the status of custodian or guardian of their films. “We are very proud to be assigned this task and responsibility” says Mike Dearham.
“The advent of M-net initiative is nothing more than the establishment of a new market for African content. Where previously old films www.southafricamag.com
areas, and every form has its place.” Fay Amaral has been in the entertainment industry 18 years, the last seven as NU Metro MD, the last three holding her current portfolio. On the ‘Cinema versus Home Entertainment’ tussle she says it’s complimentary rather than conflicting, with “quite a strong relationship between seeing something on cinema and ultimately wanting to purchase it to own. “Typically, if you’ve liked something you’ve seen on the cinema there is a translation into home entertainment. Take the average children’s viewing of the more successful film – between ten and eighty. Ten would be typical, and my son and my daughters, 11, 10 and 5, are a living example!” The perceived conflict between Home and Cinema she says is to an extent driven more by the business itself rather than the reality in the consumer’s mind. “Within every pool of consumers you have a definitive view of whether they like cinema or don’t. “There are consumer sectors who just don’t like going out, being in crowds and having pop corn munchers next to them. From a business view it’s important you participate in every aspect of the chain, giving consumers the ultimate choice in terms of what they wish to consume.” Consumer profiles and expectations are complex and fast changing, with Nu Metro emerging from a major three year re-branding and re-positioning engagement “Our brand had aged - creatively it needed to be given some life. And there’s been a definite shift in the years since democracy and we needed to address the new consumer in a constructive and creative way.” The response she says has been positive. “The brand itself has been very well received - and this departure from the old to the new has been quite dramatic. We wanted to be African in colour, so we are using vibrant colours, lots of reds and oranges. We wanted it to be inviting, reflective of entertainment.” 8
Nu Metro FEATURE
For the cinema industry, economic recession has delivered a positive. “There’s a generalised recognition that cinema attendances rise in a recession, and we have seen this happen here. Its escapism and the cinema is still one of the more economical forms of entertainment for a family when you consider the cost of going out to eat etc. “This along with 3D and content are the three big things that have brought about the rise in attendances.”
We wanted to be African in colour, so we are using vibrant colours, lots of reds and oranges. We wanted it to be inviting, reflective of entertainment
us in terms of going forward. There’s also an element of saturation on screens in certain areas which could become a challenge in the near future. “Then there are immediate infrastructure issues such as the cost of electricity supply – and that is very very difficult to stomach when you are an operator in this country. And then we have high inflation and very high prime lending rates. So you’ve got the fundamental economics of running a business in this country.” According to the CEO of a US entertainment group, the cinema business is no longer in a state of evolution. “We are in a revolution, and revolutions can be lethal.” Would she agree? “I’m a big advocate of change, of reacting positively and addressing change. From my perspective I would happily support re-looking at what could be deemed an aged industry. Revolution? I don’t believe he’s wrong.”END
It used to be all about comic glasses cut from cardboard, dodgy films and ham actors. But with digital acquisition, distribution and projection systems, many of the limiting techno issues have vanished, and 3D is reenergising the cinema business. Studio output is accelerating and screens converting. Last December Nu Metro Cinemas opened Africa’s first all-digital cinema complex at Emperor’s Palace, Johannesburg. “3D is definitely driving incremental business and attendances. It’s new and interesting and consumers are responding to the format.” While South Africa reflects much of the world cinema industry’s state of play, positive and negative, there are specific challenges says Amaral. “There’s a changing consumer face similar to other emerging markets; a growth in the middle class. But with the recession comes a slow down in disposable income growth which has implications for www.southafricamag.com
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