Motheo Matsau: Cinema owners have to work on enhancing the movie experience. Picture: SUPPLIED
Motheo Matsau: Cinema owners have to work on enhancing the movie experience. Picture: SUPPLIED

The first movie Ster-Kinekor’s new head of marketing and sales, Motheo Matsau, remembers seeing was The NeverEnding Story — at the age of four. And he’s using that famous title as a metaphor in his mission to convince the multiple-screen-using millennial audience that the tale of cinema is far from over.

He acknowledges tablets, phones and laptops are more accessible and convenient than cinema, and offer greater content variety. He says cinema owners have to work on enhancing the experience and should form partnerships with competing platforms to extend the shelf life of movies beyond two or three months on the big screen. “We have to start working on joint marketing strategies upfront, long before the movie even launches,” he says. “Blockbuster films tend to do well in the first few weeks, but then fall over the viewership cliff. After that it becomes a game of keeping the property alive for as long as possible.”

Another strategy is content development, which will be a completely new path for a company that has only been in the distribution business. He says there is a growing desire among SA audiences for quality home-grown content. “Ster-Kinekor could be involved in movie financing, but more importantly, we have untapped development skills. We know viewership and seasonal trends, what works, and what the market wants to see at a specific time.”

Matsau also says the small screen is affecting attitudes towards the big screen. He should know, having led DStv’s marketing efforts for seven years and launched its mobile content. “Cinemas have no choice but to be flexible and cater for audiences’ changing needs, whether by adapting screening times to the needs of a specific community or considering a request for beanbags for younger patrons. We have to acknowledge we are part of the entertainment [sector], fitting in somewhere between soccer, restaurants and nightclubs.”

Partnerships need to be developed “beyond the realm of cinema”. Matsau cites a new catering tie-up with US fast-food brand Pizza Hut and a recent event at a top private school, where a “pop-up” cinema experience was designed. “Ideally these pop-up cinemas should be paired with music, and that’s what we aim to do in future.”

Cinema’s relationship with the advertising industry also needs work. Research, he says, shows that though cinema’s reach to audiences is low, its impact, resonance and recall beats most other competitors, and can be a real call to consumer action. “There is a relationship gap between the advertising and cinema industries. We don’t know each other, and our challenge is to get back into the strategic planning and buying mix.”

Part of Matsau’s new strategy will be to reach out to brands to demonstrate the effectiveness of cinema as a marketing tool for more than big cinema advertisers such as Coca-Cola, Cell C and Toyota. Government and the public sector are being targeted.

Regarding the question of nonexistent cinema growth in townships, Matsau says part of the solution is convincing customers to stay in the locale to enjoy the experience, instead of seeing cinema as a “destination option”. He says he is also considering sourcing content from China, India and Nigeria, as well as local SA content.

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