Convention Preview: Emerging Cinema Markets 2019

The Emerging Cinema Markets conference is coming back to Istanbul for its second edition in 2019. Boxoffice Pro France’s Aysegul Algan interviewed Rob Arthur, Founder & Director of DCS Events, who organizes the event, about this year’s convention.

How many different countries will be represented in this new edition of ECM?

We’ll have 30 countries represented and the big difference this year is the input of government and development teams from amongst others – Turkey, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Tunisia, USA as well as the Motion Picture Association, UK, Moldova, Georgia and Iran.

There will be a series of Awards presented by ComScore to the Turkish industry which will enable the galvanizing of the production, distribution and exhibition sectors.

We will continue to explore Africa and its many countries in detail and also ensure that they all receive the support required through new sessions established by the Cinema Technology Community; International Cinema Technology Assoc and the various trade bodies including the Cinema Exhibitors Association of Nigeria.

Last year, the first ECM conference highlighted some of the most promising emerging cinema markets. Among them was the African continent─which will benefit from an extended focus at this year’s conference. How has the African market evolved in recent years?

While there was one session dedicated to Africa last year, we will share the results of some key findings and data [for the region] this year. We’ve looked at the potential per country politically, economically, by language and also by demographic profile.

Africa is the world’s second largest and second most-populous continent. It covers 6% of the Earth’s total surface area and 20% of its land area. With 1.3 billion people and a median age of 19.7 years as of 9th October 2019 (and set to double by 2050), it accounts for 16.72% of the world’s human population, but currently a nominal amount of the global box office.

A number of countries in Africa will be a focus of greater attention at ECM2019, including Angola, Cameroon, Egypt, Ghana, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania, Tunisia, and Zimbabwe.

There are multiple languages and cultural differences across the 54 African countries, but amongst the top twenty [markets], prospects there are 421.8 million English speaking residents, 60.31 million Portuguese language speakers, 193.07m French speaking residents, and 188.25 million Arabic speaking residents.

French cinema operators will be highlighted in a dedicated programme session as they have been active pioneers in former French colonies and know and understand the risks and potential across the continent.

The Portuguese offer a slightly different approach in Angola and Mozambique, and they too offer some great insights into how to develop, operate and sustain multiplex cinemas in Mozambique and Angola.

Nigeria and West Africa will have a significant delegation in attendance this year. Nigeria offers the biggest opportunity across the continent. Silverbird, Genesis, Filmhouse / Film One are growing capacity and expertise; and they are likely to be supplemented by other operators entering the market over the next few years.

Banks and Investors are working hard to deliver new projects but there are challenges. Access to capital and the cost of capital is a major deterrent as they are higher risk investments. Interest rates on borrowing are significantly higher than mature markets. A lack of understanding of the local culture and language and infrastructure works are required, as electricity coverage is erratic or non-existent.

How is the Saudi market doing since the opening of its first new cinemas in 2018? How did that market’s development affect cinema-going in the neighboring Emirates and Bahrain?

There are still opportunities to grow cinema going further in some parts of the Gulf Cooperation Council member states – the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Oman in particular. The UAE now has a screens per capita provision similar to Western Europe so good growth opportunities are far more limited at the current time.

With nine new cinemas in operation in Saudi Arabia with 88 screens and 8868 seats there will be an impact on the leisure traveler who visited Bahrain and Dubai previously for a cinema-going experience. But the quality of the offers across the region and the growth in population able to visit cinema much more frequently will enable growth.

What role does local content play in emerging markets?

Local content is essential. Turkey has seen a major fall in admissions as a result of local content being withdrawn from the market earlier this year. Turkey’s local market share of over 60% may not be replicated in other markets, but Kazakhstan has developed at pace; GCC countries will have to develop Arabic language content to satisfy the film going needs of the majority of their population who do not speak English; African nations with multiple languages and a different perspective of story-telling require local content and it is striking to note how successful Nollywood titles are in Nigeria v Hollywood. 

While French films will work well in former colonies and also be supported by new cinema developments; Portugal does not have a large local content market (2%) with which to develop further into Africa – perhaps that is a future opportunity?

Countries such as Moldova, Georgia and Azerbaijan are developing cinema and film infrastructure; while Iran has a fast-growing market; but solely based upon local content at the current time.

How has the host country’s market, Turkey, fared this year?

Turkey has faced several challenges in 2019 which resulted in a failure to release major local titles during the peak season. It has been catastrophic for operators who have seen a major decline in box office revenues in the first half of 2019 (-40%) coupled with a currency devaluation (-40%) while rents were paid in €uros and a property market decline of similar proportions.

Erkin Yilmaz, Director General of Cinema, Turkey will present a keynote speech to outline key measures to ensure the stability and growth of the sector moving forward at ECM2019. I sense that the issues in 2019 are a short-term blip on the route to finding a more sustainable market position, which will help and aid other regional markets who will look to Turkey for guidance. 

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