Raise the curtain, cinema is not dead
LIFESYLE - THE South African cinema fraternity is confident of a strong comeback once lockdown regulations permit them to reopen.
The POST spoke to the heads of cinema groups SterKinekor, Avalon and Nu Metro; as well as some of the major film distributors who bring new movies to our screens.
They said a few films were rescheduled and due to release in cinemas from June or July to December.
This is an indication that the international industry has already started to resume business at some level after film productions were stopped due to the Covid-19 pandemic and global lockdowns.
In addition to the resumption of operations overseas, Ryan Williams - Ster-Kinekor chief executive - said in South Africa there were indications that people were ready to go back to the movies.
“We recently conducted research with one of our partners in South Africa. Over 70% of cinema-goers said they would be back within the first three months of cinemas opening and over 50% said they would be back within the first month.
“I think it bodes well for people’s love and appetite for the environment of cinema. I always say, cinemas might not be the most convenient or the cheapest ways to watch films but they are absolutely the best way, and I think that is going to hold true especially with the (film) content that is coming out.”
He said most of the major releases had been moved to later in the year when most of the studios reopened.
“So something like the new Bond film, which was supposed to launch in April, has been moved to November. Disney’s Mulan, which was supposed to open in March, is now scheduled to open on July 24 internationally.”
He said it was difficult to see through the hardships caused by the lockdown and the challenges people have had to face.
“But at some point, life will carry on. So we are looking forward to being a part of that. I think people are hungry to be out and to get a sense of normal.”
So does this mean South African cinemas could open in June or July?
Williams said it was an ongoing discussion and was dependent on the lockdown level the country was on at the time.
“Most of the cinema chains in Europe, the UK, Asia and in the US are talking about opening dates between June and July. Globally, that seems to be where most of the market is.
“In South Africa, hypothetically speaking, if we are going to be delayed, I don’t think it will be a case of us being a few months behind. We might be a few weeks behind.”
AB Moosa, the chief executive of the Avalon Group (CineCentre cinemas), said 2020 had a great slate of Hollywood and Bollywood movies in the pipeline for release.
But they were awaiting clarity on when theatres could open.
“With Avalon being over 80 years in the entertainment industry, the group has worked through and overcome many national and international challenges. Covid-19 will be another chapter in the history of Avalon.”
He said movie fans around the globe were eagerly awaiting the reopening of cinemas for the big-screen entertainment and social experience they offered, especially as many were suffering from lockdown-induced cabin fever.
He highlighted a number of Hollywood and Bollywood releases that would be scheduled to release at the appropriate time.
Bollywood: Sooryavanshi, Lootcase, 83, Haathi Mere Saathi/Kaandan, Dil Bechara, Radhe - Your Most Wanted Bhai and Chhalaang.
Hollywood: Fast & Furious 9, No Time to Die, Venom: Let There be Carnage, My Spy, Minions: The Rise of Gru, Eternals, Mulan, New Mutants, Peter Rabbit 2 and Wonder Woman 1984.
Chantelle Burrows, Nu Metro Cinemas marketing and content executive, said most of the new films originally scheduled for theatrical release during this period had been rescheduled worldwide, with some release dates moved to later in the year and others to 2021.
“Cinema is an art form, an expression of culture, creativity and the human spirit. It primarily offers an escape from reality.
“Nothing can ever replace the joy of watching a movie in a cinema with popcorn, drinks, sweets, big sound and prime quality visuals on the best screens. This is what makes going to the movies such a special social outing for people of all ages.
“We have been inundated with messages on our social media platforms during this time. Our customers simply cannot wait for cinemas to reopen,” Burrows said.
“Stay home, stay safe (for now).
“While our cinemas and offices remain closed, some of our head office staff have been working behind the scenes on a standby basis to prepare and plan for the future.
“We look forward to reopening our cinemas in the near future and are ready to implement the same health and safety precautions that were introduced at all Nu Metro cinemas just before the lockdown.”