The Kenyan cinema industry has lost an estimated Sh250 million in about four months over the coronavirus pandemic that has seen the screens turned off.
An analysis by Crimson Multimedia Limited, the official distributor of global film producers, Walt Disney and Warner Brothers film, in Kenya and across East Africa region has revealed that the industry has been affected immensely with hundreds of people losing jobs.
Movie theatres which form part of the entertainment industry were closed in March following government orders to ban social gatherings in a series of restrictive measures to control the spread of the pandemic.
The move by the government adds to cancellation in major movie releases that had been scheduled in 2020. Other new movies that were planned for this period have also been released straight to the streaming platforms.
There are 11 cinemas with about 30 screens across Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu, among them Imax, Westgate Cinema, Prestige Cinema, Century Cinemax.
The industry depends on tickets sold, with the revenues divided among the movie distributors, cinema and the studio.
“Cinemas have shut down since mid-March. Our analysis if compared to 2019 same period of March to July (five months of trade) is almost Sh250 million in Box Office sales that have been lost,” Mrs Trushna Patel, managing director Crimson Multimedia Limited said.
The industry had previously suffered from terrorist attack threats and economic instability that led to low demand of the tickets. There were also piracy and competition from streaming services like Netflix.
According to Mrs Patel, the pandemic is now overturning an upward trajectory in performance from the past year.
In 2019, the movie theatres made about Sh450 million in Box Office revenues from both Hollywood and Bollywood films.
‘’Certainly, movie-going culture was slowly rising. Top movies like Avengers, The Lion King, Captain Marvel, Frozen 2, Jumanji sequel made the 2019 special,” she said.
“2020 with the expected blockbusters like Wonder Woman 84, Black Widow, Mulan, Fast and Furious 8, Top Gun sequel, The next, Bond Film No Time to Die, would have likely seen 2020 bigger than 2019 had not it been for the pandemic.”
The supplier said companies are on the edge due to high rentals amid the zero incomes.
“It (movie) is not priority when a consumer has to choose between essentials and luxury especially in hard times. Most cinemas are in shopping malls and so have to deal with high rentals,” Mrs Patel said.
Early this month, Imax Anga, a movie theatre at Nairobi’s 20th Century plaza was set to be auctioned by the landlord over unpaid rent coming close to Sh8 million.
The auction was later stopped by the tenant, Arfa Afra Limited, which runs the movie theatre, via court filing even as the landlord accused the tenant of non-compliance with repayment terms and issuance of bouncing cheques since 2015.
“It’s been extremely difficult for cinemas with zero revenues and especially with no stimulus available to survive through the pandemic. Businesses will not normalise for a year or more upon re-opening,” she said.
She anticipates a tough period on re-opening with much convincing of viewers even post-Covid-19 pandemic to attend cinemas.
“Customer viewing habits have certainly shifted due to being homebound. Streaming platforms are being consumed more than before,” she said.