Following an unprecedented shutdown of cinemas globally and across Nigeria as a result of the measures taken to contain the spread of the ravaging coronavirus, key players in the Nigerian cinema industry have begun reacting to the impact of the scourge on film exhibition.
The restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the suspension of several movies screening at the box office while others scheduled for release were postponed outrightly. Nollywood films such as Fate of Alakada, Lemonade, Kambili, Mama Drama and a host of others have been postponed till further notice. Such is the fate of Hollywood films like Bloodshot, Mulan, Black Widow, Wonder Woman 1984, No Time To Die and Fast & Furious 9.
Speaking on the financial impact of COVID-19 on the cinema industry on ARISE NEWS’ Global Business Report, Secretary of the Cinemas Exhibitors Association of Nigeria (CEAN), Moses Babatope, revealed that the industry has lost an estimated two billion naira to COVID-19-related issues.
He said: “For us the impact has been felt from as early as February because of the perception coming from China and Europe. We got a softer than expected February and as we were getting into March, once the first index case was reported in Nigeria, it got more severe. We think the estimate of loss revenue to our sector will be in the region of two billion.”
He disclosed that cinema exhibitors are working together with key stakeholders to articulate the best safety practices as well as with producers and distributors of film to ensure availability of quality content for an immersive cinema experience, post-COVID-19.
The Co-founder of Filmhouse Cinemas and FilmOne Distribution also lent his voice in support of the COVID-19 Creative Industry Committee established by the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture last week stating that its establishment in terms of “identifying that the creative sector is an important part of the economy and one that we should look at in terms of diversifying the future prosperity of this country” is the first of its kind.
Compared to other industries in the private sector who have had to terminate the appointment of many employees, cinema employees have, instead, been placed on a special furlough to ease the financial strain forced upon employers by COVID-19.
In her contribution, Operations Head, Viva Cinemas, Inu Abbas, said that Viva (and many other cinemas in Nigeria) has opted to furlough members of staff as part of a business continuity plan, adding that at the long run when cinemas are reopening employers will not have to bother about the overhead cost of staff recruitment and training and still have their experienced employees at hand to help reignite the cinema business.
On profitability, President of Film Distributors Association of Nigerian (FDAN), Joy Odiete, opined that the social distancing measures will most certainly impact the occupancy rate in cinemas which will in turn affect the revenue stream as well as profitability, should cinemas reopen.
Babatope, while addressing the option of a drive-through cinema, said he does not believe its introduction is the answers to cinemas going forward due to logistical constraints, weather limitations and the shared communal experience indoor cinema gives.
“By no means of combating it, I think it’s complimentary at best,” he added.
While some film distributors in Nigeria have begun to look the way of digital Video-On-Demand platforms such as Netflix to diversify and increase revenue streams of films released pre-COVID-19, stakeholders in the industry might begin to worry that the VOD platforms may become an alternative to cinemas going forward due to fear of large gatherings that cinemas are known for.
A recent survey conducted by CEAN and responded to by 1000 moviegoers across 12 states revealed that 68% of respondents are willing to return to cinemas after the lockdown measures have been eased in lieu of streaming platforms, while 22% remain undecided.