Ster-Kinekor bets on drive-in cinema under the stars

As Africa’s largest cinema group tries to win back customers.
Image: Shutterstock

Under the stars of the South African night, the movie-goers who used to throng a cinema among the shops of Johannesburg’s Sandton City mall, have since the pandemic watched the latest releases from a big screen in a rooftop carpark.

Drive-in movies are enjoying a revival in many parts of the world, but for South Africa the stakes are higher because of a slow COVID-19 vaccine rollout that makes a return to normality especially hard and leaves more businesses facing the risk of closure.

Ster-Kinekor, Africa’s largest cinema group, is betting on the format to win back customers fearful of catching the coronavirus. It filed for business rescue, a local form of bankruptcy protection, in January because of losses related to lockdown restrictions.

“The big goal for us is to keep the industry alive… and to keep cinema and big screens top of mind in the consumer’s repertoire of entertainment,” acting Chief Executive Motheo Matsau told Reuters.

Like its peers, Ster-Kinekor was forced to close from the end of March 2020 until the end of August 2020. Since August, it has operated under curfews and with limitations on gatherings.

“Closing down for six months for a business like ours, it’s a miracle we’re still around to be honest,” Matsau said.

He said the drive-in cinema allows the industry as a whole to gauge people’s willingness to come back to cinemas and establish how strong the case is to rescue the business.

For movie-goers Satya Praksh and her boyfriend Quinton Lamb, the drive-in experience offered a protective personal bubble and a new style of cosy relaxation.

“I love that we can be warm because it’s really cold …and we can bring our own snacks and blankets unlike the (normal) cinema,” 21-year old Praksh said. “We can talk during (the movie). We don’t have to worry about being quiet and tripping over someone’s feet.”


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Lots of people have been thinking about this option.

In South Africa you need very good security, what about hijackings and muggings while watching a movie outdoors?

Lose your cell phones and wallets at gun point while watching a movie?

We might just think we are part of the action movie.

Oh I wonder if they thought of this. Because there is no crime in doors right.

Oh I wonder if they thought of this. Because there is no crime in doors right.

With the digital revolution in full swing SK will have to rethink what they are offering to customers (that they can’t get at home or on their mobile devices). The tacky overpriced caffeine-sugar-salt hyperstimulation strip mall model was outdated 20 years ago.

In my opinion, SK could offer something like a day/night out social destination experience that may happen to include individualised movie (or game) emersion. A drive-in could certainly form a part of this.

Ja-ah ster-kinekor, now the chickens are coming home to roost (roast in your case?). All those years of crazy high pricing, ultra-super expensive popcorn and a ban on bringing in one’s own eats, are here to haunt you. I do, though, miss my childhood memories of drive-ins – the Saturday afternoon car queues at the gates to get in early-ish for a good spot towards the back with a working speaker, the extra charge should you stay for the second show, the sarmies in lettuce, coffee out of the flask, playing on the swings and slide until the movie starts and then the panic to find your parent’s car in the dark, storming the cafeteria during intermission, and the long snake to get out (if you don’t stay for the 2nd show) with a blue-light cop car directing the traffic. Ah, those were the days.

Total lack of vision.
All forms of entertainment (YouTube, movies, shows, music, news/articles/stories) have moved either very heavily, or totally online.

If SK can’t move away from physical cinemas and drive-ins (at least for most of their income), then this is just plugging 1 hole in their leaky bucket.

SK needs a new vision, a lot of innovation and new business models.

Very misleading article. They do not offer the latest releases, just the same movies on DSTV/Showmax. You can’t even book via SterKinekor website for this. Why was none of this mentioned? Almosts seems some sort of paid for promo piece?

Would love for a drive-in model to come for new releases. Secure sites like rooftop at Sandton a solid option. Reality is that these businesses make their profit from catering and drinks, not ticket price as the movie studios are very aggressive in what they charge for films to come here. A publicly owned company wants an increase in profits, so if the market doesn’t grow their only option left is cost-cutting or increasing the cost of the catering products. So when you are in a mature market and cut all the costs possible, all you are left with is steadily increasing catering prices, which is what we experienced in SA. Hope they find a way to get this catering model right for Drive-in but not sure if they will get the latest release movie rights for the model as these guys view SA as a throw away market……..Maybe streaming companies can get into this and Ster-Kinekor can strike a deal for their movies for latest releases?

End of comments.



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