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The cinema-going behaviour of black youth is stagnating.  Historically, there was a culture of “going to the movies”, but now people tend to spend less time on the traditional rituals.

“It’s important to differentiate between substitutes and replacements,” argues Motheo Matsau, newly appointed chief of marketing & sales at Ster-Kinekor Theatres. “There may be a number of substitutes available for where and how to consume movies, but I don’t believe the big-screen experience will ever be replaced.”

Matsau points out that the current decline is not a negative one, as consumers are watching more movies than before. However, they have a greater number of options of where and how to watch them. Consumers are not opposed to going out to movies, but they feel the experience lacks a social aspect. Therefore Ster-Kinekor is spending time in the field to gain insight into how people want to consume movies. This research, while not limited to the millennial and generation Z markets, does have a particular focus on them. “This market has not written off going to movies. But it is saying: ‘give me the experience in the way I want it’,” says Matsau.

Ster-Kinekor is adopting a diverse approach to its core product and the way it is sold, to accommodate the changing needs of its audience. “Because we have these great assets called theatres, we can use them in any way we want to – and this is where the opportunities lie,” he says. Ster-Kinekor has invested in technology that will enable movie theatres to be used for means other than solely the screening of films.

It is not a new concept, says Matsau, but there is now a stronger focus on providing alternative entertainment such as opera, comedy, music shows and corporate conferences, which can be held live at one venue and simultaneously broadcast to others. It is through alternative content or event cinema that Ster-Kinekor will grow its market, and is also another way of getting people to visit movie theatres.

Matsau believes that today marketers need to become human behaviourists as well. “Communication is no longer limited to advertising. It also involves how to position your product and where to find your audience; and relates to understanding that whereas you cannot control what a certain market says about your brand, you can make sure that you are part of the conversation,” he says.

Ster-Kinekor says it continues to enjoy one major advantage as a media platform and this is that the audience is a captive one, and so presents advertisers with a myriad opportunities. The increasing popularity of video on demand does increase the amount of content available for consumption, but Matsau sees this as an opportunity, as opposed to a challenge. The pie is growing, he maintains, and it’s big enough for everyone to have a piece.

The big take-out: Ster-Kinekor is looking to alternative content to help grow audiences in a time when consumption habits among audiences have changed. But movies remain the core offering and this, together with customer service, will not be compromised.

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