When cinemas across Lagos shut down activities on March 24, following the advice of the state government, most expected that the shutdown would not last for long.
Genesis Cinema, in its announcement, stated, “As this is an evolving situation, we will keep you updated and we look forward to welcoming you back soon with the best cinema experience.”
Filmhouse also released an official statement saying, “We look forward to welcoming you with the best possible cinema experience as soon as things return to normal.”
Little did they know that the word “normal” would be redefined over the next couple of months to become “new normal.”
Impact of the lockdown
Now, the various state governors have commenced easing of the lockdown (which had been placed nationwide to curb the spread of COVID-19) and a gradual reopening of the economy. In spite of this, the fate of cinemas, just like most entertainment outlets, is largely uncertain.
Nairametrics had done an analysis of the Q1 performances of cinemas in Nigeria, and findings in that article showed a significant drop in their weekly revenues between February and March 2020. Also, available data from CEAN shows that the last filming week for cinemas was 20 to 26 March, 2020, and since then no income has been recorded.
As a result of this, several movies selling at the box office were suspended, while others scheduled for release were postponed. In fact, the film calendar for Nigerian cinemas has been completely upturned, courtesy of the pandemic.
Movies like Going Bananas, 2 Weeks in Lagos, Lemonade, The Good Husband, and others slated for release in April and May have been postponed indefinitely. Omoni Oboli, notable Nigerian actress and filmmaker, who was shooting a new TV series, Last Year Single, had to halt the production abruptly, and no one could say for sure when things would become “normal” again.
Seeking possible solutions
There may yet be hope for the industry, even as it proceeds into the second half of the year. However, there will have to be huge sacrifices and adjustments made, and the result is that cinemas will no longer be what you used to know.
So, here’s what you should expect from the ‘new normal’ in the industry.
Drive-in screening of movies
Just recently, the drive-in cinema was experienced for the first time in Nigeria. Foremost filmmaker, Charles Okpaleke, has pioneered the concept with the screening of the Living in Bondage sequel, which was screened at the drive-in cinema holding at Transcorp Hilton car park, Abuja.
Silverbird cinemas also had its first drive-in cinema experience, when it screened the Legend of Inikpi on Sunday June 7, in Abuja, with plans to replicate it in Lagos and Port Harcourt.
Genesis Cinemas has also announced similar plans to commence the drive-in cinema experience.
Bukunmi Sobowale, Marketing and Public Relations Officer at Trino Motion Pictures, a movie production firm, insists that Nigerians should definitely expect more of the drive-in cinema experience as we move forward towards a total ease of the lockdown.
A drive-in theatre or drive-in cinema is structured with a large outdoor movie screen, a projection booth, a concession stand, and a large parking area for automobiles where customers can view movies from the privacy and comfort of their cars.
As we can easily deduce from Okpaleke’s statement, this is an attempt to keep business moving, without violating the physical distancing guidelines.
More checks for traditional cinema
Even when the normal theatres resume, adjustments are expected. In a bid to check the number of admitted persons, ticket reservation will now be done strictly online and there will be a controlled seating arrangement. This is only one of the guidelines which the Cinema Exhibitors Association of Nigeria CEAN has put in place.
For movie-lovers, getting into the cinema is going to require more than a ticket check. Guests will have to undergo temperature checks and other safety measures before being allowed in, and of course, everyone is expected to wear a nose mask.
Restrooms will now also be strictly regulated to allow for usage based on capacity.
Naturally, the cinema staff will also be expected to use nose masks and gloves while carrying out their duties.
Change of viewing schedules and seating arrangements
Among the directives which the authorities have passed down to cinema owners, they will have to increase clean-up time in between shows to allow for deep cleaning, and all movie schedules will take the existing curfew laws into consideration.
Like the Lagos state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, had said in a recent briefing, cinemas will have to recalibrate their space management strategy as part of the Register-to-open initiatives before they can be allowed.
This could mean anything from taking some seats out of the cinema halls, to completely altering the hall arrangement. Physical distancing also has to be strictly applied at the receptions to ensure that no one is within a two metre distance of another person.
Specifically, the cinemas are no longer allowed to seat more than 50% viewing audience per screen, and physical distancing is to be strictly enforced.
The 20 minutes end-time in between shows will also keep traffic in the foyers in check.
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Embracing the new normal
Despite adjustments made, one wonders how ready Nigerians are to get back to the cinema viewing experience. Most people would likely still be wary of potentially crowded places for a long time, except where it is absolutely unavoidable.
In this COVID-19 era, I think cinema culture as we know it is gone. Even if people continue going to the cinemas, the little intimacies we take for granted would be absent – no more leaning over to the next seat to have whispered conversations with loved ones as the movies go on.
Most irksome is the fact that you may not even get to scream or laugh out loud, courtesy of the compulsory nose masks you have to put on.
For all we know, the fun days of the cinema may be gone!
At least, until a vaccine is found for the virus.
Between Amazon, TikTok and Netflix; a battle for souls of streaming patrons
Intrigues and competition as streaming services continue to tussle for subscribers.
More than a few eyebrows were raised when Netflix revealed during the week, that competitors could be responsible for the relatively flat curve in profit in its Q2 results.
In its letter to shareholders, Netflix admitted that competitors such as Apple, Amazon, Disney, NBCUniversal and WarnerMedia were not giving them easy access to the market share, but assured that the streaming service had its strategy, and could improve its content faster than its peers.
It also admitted that social media could pose a different kind of threat, particularly TikTok, which is growing at an unprecedented rate and showing how flexible internet entertainment could become.
Netflix’s paid membership numbers grew from 182.856 million at the end of March 2020, to 193 million at the end of June 2020 – a growth of about 10.1 million, much more than the 7.5 million that the company predicted in April.
This however did not reflect in the profit accordingly, as the company recorded $720 million profit on revenue of $6.1 billion in Q2 as against $709 million profit on $5.8 billion revenue in Q1, 2020.
There were assumptions that people would continue to turn to Netflix for entertainment as they remained locked down at home, but these brands are now proving to Netflix that they are also in the race for the numbers all the way.
Amazon’s Prime Video
Prime Video, is an American Internet video on demand service that is developed, owned, and operated by Amazon.
Similar to Netflix’s mode of operations, Prime Video secures rights to original content. Forbes reports that even though Netflix has more subscribers than Amazon’s Prime Video, Prime has three times as many movies in its archives.
Netflix has about 3,781 total movies while Amazon Prime has about 12,828 movies. The billions of dollars that Netflix has invested in purchasing original content appear to have been dwarfed by its rival.
Weighing the options
Reviewers adjudged both brands as going toe to toe on various fronts, releasing new exclusive videos every week.
However, Netflix offers its services at the most expensive rate. Amazon Prime Video offers its monthly premium subscription at $8.99, while Netflix offers its premium subscription at $12.99. Other brands in the space offer at even lower rates. For instance, Apple offers its subscription for $4.99, and Disney’s monthly subscription sells for $6.99.
Though Apple and Disney are not considered major threats to Netflix, it is clear that if the battle for market share comes down to prices, Netflix could lose out, especially in the African region where poverty is higher, and income per capita is lower.
Growth seems promising for the region, especially since Netflix now streams its local content. Netflix has so far streamed several Nigerian movies, unlike any of the other two.
However, apart from price, Netflix has set the pace for the others. According to a Forbes review, a close look at Prime Video’s thousands of movies would reveal a lot of “extremely low-budget shows, including some that look to be home-made” although there are also thousands of quality originals on the platform, much more than the entire videos on Netflix.
Their survey also shows that in giving value for every dollar paid, Prime Video is still ahead due to cheaper costs and more movies in its archives.
Every dollar of subscription gives you access to 247 shows and 1,427 movies on Prime Video, 149 shows and 291 movies on Netflix, 34 shows and 88 movies on Disney, 146 shows and 116 movies on the recently launched HBO Max, and 4 shows and 1 video on Apple TV.
For video quality, however, it’s a tussle between Netflix and Prime Video. Also, Netflix is the only one of the lot to have made an official entry into Nigeria and other African countries; experts predict that Europe, Middle East and Africa region will soon account for more than a third of Netflix’s total subscriber base.
However, the Q2 results have shown that growth in subscriber numbers may not necessarily translate into growth in profits. Due to the fact that Netflix hardly ever discusses subscriber figures in a specific country (aside from the US and Canada), there are a whole host of estimates available as regards the exact subscriber figures from country to country.
However, Europe, Middle East and Africa have seen a significant increase; from making up 25% of the 118.9 million subscribers in Q1 2018, the region now accounts for almost a third of the 193 million paid subscriptions.
What is with TikTok?
TikTok is a Chinese video-sharing social networking service owned by ByteDance. Though launched in the Chinese market since 2016, the network gained unrivaled popularity in 2020 as it soon became a quick remedy to boredom. It is used to create short dance, lip-sync, comedy and talent videos, making its audience into “prosumers”, that is producers and consumers of its content.
Unlike Netflix and Amazon Prime, TikTok does not spend millions of dollars in purchasing originals and exclusives, but allows users to become creators. Experts argue that it is this added level of engagement – where the user becomes producer and director – that has given TikTok an edge in the race for internet entertainment.
A cut in the Nigerian market
From over 200 million Nigerians, none of these streaming platforms have staked a clear 10 percent, and over 90% of the Nigerian populace is still unclaimed.
Beyond marketing strategies and promotions, the battle will come down to content as it is said that “content is king.” That platform that succeeds in giving Nigerians what they want might just have the day.
In quantity, TikTok is bound to be ahead since it is a community publishing platform where the users can create multiple content daily.
When it comes to the kind of local quality that will win the heart of Nigerians, I daresay that Netflix is ahead of the game.
Lasisi Elenu’s “Mama and Papa Godspower” comedy will soon be launched as a Netflix series, and if Lasisi’s views on Youtube and Instagram will be a determining factor, hundreds of thousands of loyal fans might just join the Netflix family.
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There is also the recently signed deal with Mo Abudu’s EbonyLife to bring a series-adaptation of Lola Shoneyin’s “The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives” and a film-adaptation of Prof. Wole Soyinka’s “Death And The King’s Horseman” to screen.
Both shows, exclusive to Netflix, can well be described as the ‘mother of all local content’, not only set in Nigeria, but portraying depths of the Nigerian culture and history that the other platforms lack.
Eventually, it may or may not be a game of numbers, but this league promises to be an interesting one to watch.
Mr Eazi raises $20 million fund to invest in African artists
The fund is to create a new platform to fund the music entertainment ecosystem in Africa.
Nigerian Afrobeats star, Oliwatosin Ajibade, popularly knows as Mr Eazi , has raised $20 million for his Africa Music Fund (AMF) to invest in the careers of African music talents.
This was disclosed by Mr Eazi in a statement issued to CNN. According to him, the fund was led by 88mph, a firm that invests in African Businesses.
He explained that his intention was to create a new platform to fund the music entertainment ecosystem in Africa adding that the entertainment ecosystem is not understood by intuitional investors in Africa and leads to limits in funding the industry.
There has been no investment of this type or magnitude in the Nigerian music space before.
“Artists cannot go to banks to get money for their music because financial institutions don’t understand how to secure intellectual property. They get it for physical properties but not for music. So, because not a lot of people understand the music business, there is no finance product for musicians,” he told CNN.
How it works: Artists, who already have a foothold in the continent, are expected to join the platform, and their data would be gathered to see how much they are fully earning from music streams. Upfront payments would be made on the revenue for the artists, which gives them more capital to expand their creativity.
The upfront payments would be paid back in installments by the artists as the investments on their earnings rise.
“Let’s say we have a two-year contract with someone. In those two years, we will be their representative, helping them manage their music, and as they grow we will be deducting the initial investment from their earnings,” he said.
Why it matters: AMF would enable African creatives have access to a larger audience through streaming platforms and technology, which will enable them have access to festivals and shows for their music. Mr. Eazi himself has gathered more than 5 million streams on music streaming platforms like Spotify.
He announced that the AMF will partner with Vydia, music technology company, and both will launch a music distribution platform called Cinch Distro. The platform would help upcoming creative upload their songs for 500 naira.
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“The way it works is that they register on the platform and make their music. It has an AI-based tech that will filter their possible revenue based on the number of streams they get on the platform alongside a couple of other metrics,” he added.
He added that the platform would help artists have their music distributed and their progress gets tracked through AI, enabling Cinch Distro make data-backed decisions on further investments.
Netflix adds 10.1 million paid users in Q2 2020, yet stock plunges more than 9%
Netflix’s revenue grew by 25% over the same quarter in 2019.
The world’s largest streaming company, Netflix, recorded an impressive result recently, showing that it added 10.1 million users. However, stock traders became worried as the company couldn’t guarantee the performance recorded in Q2 2020, for the next quarter, making the stock to plunge by more than 9% after the results were released.
“Netflix added 10.1 million paid memberships versus 2.7 million in last year’s Q2. It’s a pace that cannot be kept,” Netflix CEO Reed Hastings pointed out in his shareholders’ letter. “The positive variance relative to our 7.5m forecast was due to better-than-forecast acquisition and retention.”
“In the first half of this year, we’ve added 26 [million] paid memberships, nearly on par with the 28 [million] we achieved in all of 2019. However, as we expected … growth is slowing as consumers get through the initial shock of COVID-19 and social restrictions.
“Our paid net additions for the month of June also included the subscriptions we canceled for the small percentage of members who had not used the service recently,” Hastings added.
Netflix’s revenue grew by 25% over the same quarter in 2019, while quarterly operating income exceeded $1 billion.
Quick fact: Netflix is an American streaming company that allows subscribers to watch movies, documentaries, different popular TV shows, and many more through internet-connected hardwires.
Operating margin expanded by an unheard-of 770 basis points year over year to 22.1 percent. Content and marketing expenses dropped lower than expected, with the COVID-19 pandemic delaying some production expenses.
“Everyone is wrestling with implications both on health, on hunger, poverty, and we too are really unsure of what the future brings,” said Hastings on the company’s earnings call Thursday.
Hastings says the platform is making its contribution to make home confinement a little more bearable in these difficult times and it is focused on getting its content out to the subscribers.