London — It's been a tough year for Nigeria's Filmhouse whose activities span cinemas, film distribution and production. But as a sign of its confidence that cinema-going will hold its own despite lockdowns, it has launched a new app. Russell Southwood spoke to Moses Babatope, Co-Founder and Managing Director, Filmhouse and Segun Oni, Group Business Intelligence and Project Manager.
The founders of Filmhouse in 2012 wanted to create a "multi-faceted company covering the whole value chain." The idea was to provide their users with the content they wanted delivered in the way they wanted. In 2017 it launched its first online platform MyFilmhouse in partnership with Blue Sky Media.
"We wanted to provide value to customers beyond the cinema." It offered pay-per-view content:"The long and the short of it was that it didn't quite work. We didn't have as much say on the tech as we would have liked." It reached a couple of thousand users." Filmhouse decided to re-launch with a very different proposition:"We were thinking during lockdown, we can't just be a traditional, offline business. We realized that (the first iteration) was not catering to the needs of the market in terms of poor infrastructure and the cost of data."
The idea for the new version was to have an app that "congregates our cinemas goers" and provides a form of loyalty scheme, giving points for visiting the cinema. It offers two levels of subscriptions (N6,000 and N9,000) that allow users to book films and earn points. The lower price tier offers access to film screenings at regular cinemas and the higher tier gives access to premium cinemas (IMAX, DBox and the MX4D screen). Both plans offer ticket discounts but the higher tier offers an additional 5% discount.
Alongside there is free-to-access, VoD content that it sees as a "value-add" and additional retail offers. At present, the booking has to be physically redeemed at the cinema but it is looking at a second stage where there will be self-service machines and eventually a third stage, at the entrance to the cinema.
It was launched in beta at the beginning of June and has had 3,000+ downloads, of which there have been 100 subscribers, 75% of whom have bought the higher tier plan. It has also had a 10% increase in use over its previous web platform.
Covid-19 has meant that the supply of blockbuster films from the Hollywood majors dried up:"There has been a growth in appetite for local content, even on Netflix, during the lockdown period. Branded Nigerian films worked well for cinemas. The quality of the films improved and cinema-goers were able to see them before their diaspora counterparts." It did particularly well with Omo Ghetto: The Saga, a gangster comedy co-directed by Funke Akindele and J.J.Skillz, which turned into the highest grossing Nollywood film.
But the long-term impact of Covid-19 is unclear: 2020 was a six-month year with more limited access to international films. This limited access has shifted the balance of revenues from 72% from Hollywood in 2019 to 45% in 2020 to more like 40% in 2021 so far:"The jury's still out. We'll have to see by the end of the year. The latest Fast and Furious has opened well and there's still an appetite for Hollywood blockbusters. We're all optimistic. We've not seen the doomsday scenario of everybody moving to streaming en masse because of issues around internet reliability and costs. Local cinema has shown a lot of resilience."
Babatope says that three and half months of the six operating months in 2020 were strong:"The Cinema Association of Nigeria was in dialogue with the Government and we were really at the precipice at some points. There have been no palliatives for smaller cinemas not able to meet their bills. There also continue to be piracy risks as there are a lot of people ripping off online streams. The streamers themselves are buying branded content that might have come into cinemas. We need to get the streamers to understand it's complementary."
In terms of the film productions it is financing, it will produce a total of eleven across the year, four of which have already been released:"There are some big, ambitious projects with US$250,000-400,000 budgets." These include: comedy with an A Y production currently shooting in Miami with an international cast; a film reboot of the Aki and Popo franchise; and a production with Basketmouth:"We take a bullish position on product."
Showmax Pro is set to live stream the Tokyo Olympics Games for its subscribers across Africa.
The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 were postponed to 2021 as a result of the Covid pandemic. However, Showmax Pro subscribers will have access to live streams of every available event, all Showmax subscribers will be able to stream exclusive Olympics coverage including talk shows, highlights and documentaries.
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Multichoice execs head for the door: The exodus of senior personnel at South African pay-TV giant MultiChoice has continued in 2021, with two more executives leaving the company in the last few weeks, according to MyBroadband. In an email sent to employees on Thursday, Group CEO Calvo Mawela announced that MultiChoice Africa Holdings (MAH) CEO Brand De Villiers is leaving the company to pursue other business interests. De Villiers, a qualified Chartered Accountant, served for nearly six years at MultiChoice. He began his stint as Strategy and New Business Director in December 2015 and was appointed as MAH CEO in January 2017. De Villiers will be replaced by the current Director of MultiChoice Africa Southern Region, Fhulu Badugela, starting from 1 August. Natasha Matos-Hemingway is leaving the company after less than two years as MultiChoice Group Chief Marketing Officer. Matos-Hemingway started at MultiChoice in October 2019 after almost nine years in various roles at Microsoft and Google. The latest shifts in the company's executive team follow three other senior executives departing MultiChoice in 2020. This started with MultiChoice Connected Video CEO Nicklas Ekdahl's resignation in July, followed by Chief Strategy Officer Max Krudop leaving the company in August. Shortly thereafter, it was announced that MultiChoice South Africa CEO Mark Rayner had resigned and would conclude his 14-year run at the broadcaster in November. Another notable resignation in the same year was MultiChoice Connected Video's head of communications Richard Boorman. It's not clear what is behind the flurry of resignations. However, it has been speculated that MultiChoice CEO Calvo Mawela's management style and strategic direction were the cause.
If you thought Cartoon Network couldn't possibly pull another trick out of the hat, then you better think again because things just keep getting better and more local in Cartoon Network land. To get the school holidays off to a fresh start, Cartoon Network will be launching My Cartoon Friend, a brand-new channel original show, on Monday, 12th of July. The humorous, imaginative, and uniquely African series of 13 one-and-a-half minute shorts, created especially for Cartoon Network Africa by South African animator Lwazi Msipha, proves that while cartoons are cool and friends essential, having a cartoon character as a friend can be super-cool, right? Errr ... not always!
After experimenting with some new and unknown animation software, a young African animator, Lwazi, mistakenly exports his animated character into the real world. Lwazi finds himself stuck with a new and unusual friend, Themba, with no knowledge of how to reverse the whole thing. Themba is witty, sharp with his tongue, quick on his feet, and almost certainly has an answer to everything - even if he's wildly inaccurate. The two have an entertaining and adventurous everyday life together as Themba tries to learn how to fit into the real world (but not paying any rent, that's for sure!).
Lionsgate, a prominent American film production and distribution company, has acquired the rights to distribute the 2020 blockbuster Nigerian film 'A Soldier's Story 2: Return from the Dead'. The film has become the first in Nollywood to be distributed by Lionsgate. Martin Gbados and Frankie Ogar produced and directed the film, which is a sequel to "A Soldier's Story."
Cameroon: Veteran journalist Joe Chebonkeng, the recently commissioned President of the National Communication Council (NCC), has pledged to rid Cameroon's media landscape of charlatans. The media guru engaged media personnel after being formally installed as President of the National Communication Council by Prime Minister Head of Government, Chief Dr Joseph Dion Ngute, at the Star Building on Tuesday, June 29.
Malawi: The newly-minted Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) Director-General, George Kasakula, has sternly warned the public broadcaster's staff to desist from politicking and gossiping because they have a duty to serve Malawians and not just a selected few, according to Nyasa Times.
On Tuesday, June 29 2021 Netflix introduced a Mobile Plan to members across the sub-Saharan Africa region. Last year, it tested two Mobile Plan options to see if its members would like them and following the test, we will now launch one Mobile Plan at R49/ US$3.99 which will sit alongside our other three Netflix plans; Basic, Standard & Premium. The mobile plan can be accessed on a tablet or a smartphone but only allows one stream at a time. Members who subscribe to the mobile plan will have the same access to the entire Netflix catalogue available in Africa