RECENTLY, THE CINEMA Nouveau complex at Rosebank Shopping Mall underwent a facelift. But this was no complicated structural reconfiguration. It looks, on a superficial level, almost the same, except for some nips and tucks and a bar which serves small meals around the corner. This is the wisdom in Ster Kinekor team’s thinking, explains chief sales and marketing officer at the movie company, Motheo Matsau.
“Cinema Nouveau is a dedicated arthouse cinema,” he says. “It’s one of a very few in the world, so we schedule movies here which are suited for cinema lovers, not just for people who come to watch movies. When we do our scheduling and contents outsourcing, we know there are two sides to the story. There are films for entertainment, but there is also the art side of film and Nouveau allows us to exhibit it.”
And you might think art house films and think, niche concept, teeny audience with a longevity that is threatened. You’d be only a third correct. It’s a niche concept, but the size of the audience, Matsau explains, depends on the popularity of the film. He recalls a ‘cult evening’ hosted with a screening of Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, a couple of years ago, which filled the auditorium to its proverbial rafters. People dressed up, they got tattoos … Matsau promises that there are more ‘cult evenings’ planned.
He adds that André Rieu live screenings are always popular, as are banner festivals and the Metropolitan opera seasons, but it was Inxeba, the South African film by John Trengrove, dealing with circumcision in a Xhosa community, which upped the film complex’s game two years ago.
“The more controversy it sparked, the more people came. Normally, when a new movie opens, people are interested and there are high volumes and as time passes the audiences lessens. But with Inxeba, the opposite happened. It was a small movie, until people started talking about it, and everybody wanted to see what the movie is about.
“It was momentarily banned, by the people who were protesting about it … but ultimately the filmmakers won the case. We only had to take it down for two days.
“That’s the funny thing about storytelling. The people who wanted to see Inxeba were the people who should have known the story. So I had a lot of people of amaXhosa descent, in the audiences. They didn’t care about the movie, but because of the controversy, they wanted to see what the fuss was all about. What came of that, is there was not one person was on the fence about the value of this film.”
Working with no mandate to be a crowd-pleaser, Cinema Nouveau certainly has a loyal audience. “Rosebank is the flagship of the concept in South Africa, and it boasts some of the longest serving customers, who are also the most critical. Hence the revamp,” Matsau laughs. “The idea behind it is we want to change Nouveau cinemas into hubs. So you should feel comfortable to come here, not necessarily only to watch a movie. So, the philosophy is that people who like the same kind of thing hang out together.
“We are not a five star hotel, so we’re not trying to serve gourmet meals, but want you to come here, have a decent glass of wine and a decent meal. And that’s what I think we’ve arrived at.”
Ster Kinekor releases over 300 movies a year. Every Friday, between five and eight movies are released, and sometimes they fit both Cinema Nouveau values and ordinary commercial ones. “And that has led us to the cross-pollination of what was traditionally Cinema Nouveau content, and that which wasn’t. It’s the more non-commercial commercial stuff that sparks debate – like Bohemian Rhapsody, A Star is Born and Rocketman. These titles were very popular in both the niche venues and the commercial ones,” says Matsau.
So who are the loyal cinema nouveau audiences? “There is a myth out there that they’re all old,” Matsau grins. The refreshing of the complex is about giving the young audience a place to chill. “We just hope we won’t alienate the core Nouveau audience. It’s still Nouveau, only sexier.
“People are still coming to see films. And they always will, because Netflix and Showmax and whoever else are not in the same industry. We, at Ster Kinekor, are in the experiential entertainment industry. They are in the video content consumption industry. This is not to say that the two can’t live together. It’s a symbiotic relationship. We complement each other more than compete with each other.”
- My View in partnership with Cinema Nouveau in Rosebank is offering a double ticket to one lucky My View reader, for the pre-screening of Fisherman’s Friends, a film based on the true story of Cornish fisherman whose album of sea shanties scored an unexpected top ten hit. It features actors of the calibre of David Hayman, and is made by the team that gave the world Finding your feet. The pre-screening is on September 11, in Rosebank at 19:00. All you need to do is pop an email to email@example.com, which includes your name, cell number and the full name of Ster Kinekor’s Chief of Marketing and Sales, by the close of business on Wednesday September 4. The draw will take place at 12 noon on Thursday September 5.