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HOLLYWOOD STRIKES AFFECT SA CINEMAS, BUT...

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MBABANE – Following reports that South Africa’s Ster-Kinekor Cinemas is preparing to lay off almost a third of its 728 employees, the local cinema industry has assured cinemagoers that they will not be affected.

Ster-Kinekor last week announced plans to close nine of its cinemas in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape. The cinema chain stated that it needs to undergo restructuring due to factors such as a challenging economic environment, the influx of streaming platforms such as Netflix, Showmax, and the impact of the Hollywood strikes which saw some movie releases moved to 2025.

Two local cinemas, however, have come out to assure customers that the problems faced by Ster-Kinekor have not affected the local industry. Sophia Mavimbela, the Manager at Movie Zone Cinemas in Ezulwini, confirmed that the industry has been affected, but emaSwati continue to come out in numbers for movies.

“We cannot run away from the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted a lot of services, including the movie industry. We stopped admitting viewers and our cinemas suffered a huge blow. The popularity of streaming platforms also came into play and because people were a bit unsure about getting out after the pandemic, they stayed indoors,” she said.

“This, however, does not mean that the effects have stayed long as we are slowly seeing business starting to look great again. Our cinemas are currently at an 80 per cent capacity and that is growth as compared to the previous years, post-COVID-19.” Mavimbela also highlighted the recent Hollywood strikes as a reason for the slow movement in the cinema industry. “Even though the production of films is at a standstill, the local industry is able to sustain the availability of films,” she said.

Assured

Reiterating Mavimbela’s words was Zenzi Thomo from the newest local cinema, Julio’s Cinelux in Manzini, who assured local viewers that the situation still looks good in the country. “We have not heard of any problems that will affect us as an industry in the country. We have been able to sustain our services and still looking forward to new movie releases in the next coming months since the strikes are over,” she said. She went on to mention that emaSwati still cherish going out to watch movies.

The Hollywood strikes last year were due to the rise of the streaming services and the challenges created by the pandemic that stressed the studios, many of which faced financial challenges, as well as actors and writers, who are seeking better pay and new protections in a rapidly changing workplace. Both actors and screenwriters demanded increased residual payments (a type of royalty) from streaming services. Worth noting is that the Hollywood season is expected to open in the next few months and cinemas will start providing new movies.

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