Cinemart, a Nigerian film company, plans to invest Sh1.2 billion in the Kenyan movie theatre industry over the next three years, renewing West African investors’ efforts to control the business at a time when piracy and rising popularity of home entertainment have diminished cinema attendances.
The firm said the investment will enable it to open about 25 cinema halls in the next one year, with the first 12 set to be running by September.
Most of the theatres will be in high density estates as the company targets the mass market. According to the firm’s CEO, Mr Dayo Ogunyemi, the failure of most cinema halls is linked to the choice of location, high pricing of tickets that has locked out majority of low income earners, and lack of innovation to navigate challenges that have come with technological advancements.
“Our investment plan over the next three years calls for $15 million to $20 million, with about 25 to 30 per cent of that coming in the next 18 months,” he said.
“We cannot disclose some of the details for reasons to do with competition, but I can tell you that the Nairobi locations will include Buru Buru, Embakasi, Kawangware, and Kariobangi.”
The move comes weeks after another Nigerian company, Silverbird Cinema, closed its last movie theatre joining a growing list of cinema firms that have been pushed out of the market by poor customer turnout. “While we are keen on addressing the opportunities left by the recent high-end cinema closures, we are clear in our vision and strategy that mwananchi constitutes Cinemart’s core target market,” said Mr Ogunyemi.
“We will provide compelling content at affordable prices in locations accessible to the mass market.” Nairobi, Odeon, Cameo, Globe and Shan cinemas closed shop with the halls being rented out to other parties, mostly churches.
Mr Ogunyemi, who is also a partner in 234 Media, a firm that invests in media, entertainment, and technology sectors in Africa, said they would register a local outfit to run regional operations. The firm, which has been exploring investing in Kenya since 2009, said it would feature films broadcasted in both English and Kiswahili in a bid to appeal to the grassroots population across the East African market.
“Some of the co-productions in our acquisition pipeline will pair Kenyan acting talent with major stars from other African countries,” said Mr Ogunyemi. “We see the potential that Kenya has in terms of talent and locations and want to contribute towards developing Kenyan film further — not just with cinema but with film co-productions as well.”
The firm expects to employ 350 people before the end of next year. “We expect that each cinema will employ 10 to 15 employees.” This comes at a time when sector players across Africa are scheduled to meet next month in Nairobi to discuss ways of dealing with technological threats facing the film industry.