The future Trajectory of South African Film Industry
South Africa has a rich and diverse film industry that has produced many acclaimed and award-winning films over the years. However, the industry also faces many challenges and opportunities in the rapidly changing global landscape of media and entertainment. In this article, I will explore some of the trends and issues that are shaping the future of South African film industry.
One of the major trends that is affecting the film industry worldwide is the rise of streaming platforms and digital distribution. These platforms offer new ways for filmmakers to reach audiences and generate revenue, but also pose threats to the traditional models of theatrical exhibition and distribution. According to a report by PwC, South Africa’s box office revenue declined by 56% in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown measures that forced cinemas to close or operate at reduced capacity. The report also projected that the box office revenue will not recover to pre-pandemic levels until 2024. On the other hand, the report estimated that the revenue from video-on-demand (VOD) services in South Africa grew by 28% in 2020 and will continue to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15% until 2025.
The growth of VOD services in South Africa is driven by both local and international players. Some of the local players include Showmax, DStv Now, TelkomONE and Quibi Africa, which offer a mix of local and international content. Some of the international players include Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ and Apple TV+, which have entered the South African market with varying degrees of success. Netflix, for instance, has been investing in original content from Africa, such as Queen Sono, Blood & Water and Jiva!, as well as licensing content from local producers and distributors. However, Netflix also faces challenges such as high data costs, low broadband penetration and regulatory uncertainty in South Africa.
Another trend that is impacting the film industry in South Africa is the increasing demand for diverse and authentic stories that reflect the realities and aspirations of different segments of society. South Africa has a multicultural and multilingual population that is composed of various ethnic groups, languages, religions and cultures. The film industry has a responsibility and an opportunity to represent this diversity on screen and to create stories that resonate with different audiences. Some of the recent films that have showcased this diversity include Moffie, Knuckle City, Fiela se Kind, Seriously Single and Riding with Sugar. These films have explored themes such as identity, sexuality, violence, family, love and social mobility in contemporary South Africa.
However, creating diverse and authentic stories also requires overcoming some of the barriers and challenges that exist in the film industry. One of these challenges is the lack of funding and support for independent filmmakers and emerging talent. According to a report by Screen Africa, only 23% of the films produced in South Africa between 2013 and 2018 were funded by private investors or self-funded by filmmakers. The majority of the films were funded by public institutions such as the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and provincial film commissions. While these institutions play a vital role in supporting the film industry, they also have limited resources and criteria that may not always align with the creative vision and market potential of filmmakers.
Another challenge is the lack of access and exposure for local films in both domestic and international markets. According to a report by NFVF, only 23% of the films released in South African cinemas in 2019 were local films. The rest were foreign films, mainly from Hollywood. The report also found that local films had an average occupancy rate of 7%, compared to 14% for foreign films. This indicates that local films face stiff competition from foreign films in terms of marketing, distribution and audience appeal. Moreover, local films also struggle to find distribution deals and platforms in international markets, especially outside Africa. This limits their potential to reach wider audiences and generate more revenue.
In conclusion, the future of South African film industry is shaped by many factors that present both challenges and opportunities for filmmakers. The rise of streaming platforms and digital distribution offers new avenues for reaching audiences and generating revenue, but also threatens the traditional models of theatrical exhibition and distribution. The demand for diverse and authentic stories offers a chance for filmmakers to create stories that reflect the realities and aspirations of different segments of society, but also requires overcoming barriers such as funding, access and exposure. The film industry in South Africa has a lot of potential to grow and thrive in the global landscape of media and entertainment, but it also needs more support and collaboration from various stakeholders such as government, private sector, civil society and audiences.