With a challenging economy hitting the consumer’s spending power competition has intensified within South Africa’s entertainment sector. At the forefront of this fierce battle, the cinema industry projects a modern, sophisticated approach to enticing movie lovers back to the Silverscreen.
For Rosebank, Johannesburg-based Nu Metro, the introduction of a number of ‘firsts’, has seen the business continue to flourish. Indeed, in October, the Nu Metro Montecasino in Johannesburg was voted as the best cinema complex through the Leisure Options Best of Joburg Readers Choice Awards, for the fifth consecutive year.
The cinema was opened in November 2000 and over the ensuing years became established as the most visited cinema complex on the Nu Metro circuit, averaging just fewer than one million admissions per year.
Commenting on the award, Nu Metro’s Mark Harris, content and marketing executive stated:
“The annual Best of Joburg Readers’ Choice Awards are widely accepted as a true indicator of what’s hot and what’s not in Johannesburg, and we are extremely proud to have been chosen for this award five times in a row by our loyal customers.”
Nu Metro’s business forms a part of the Times Media Group Limited’s (TMG) entertainment portfolio. TMG is the publicly-listed holding company that owns leading South Africa media and entertainment assets, boasting prominent brands, innovative content, delivered across a variety of channels.
Its film business is made up of Nu Metro Cinema, Nu Metro Home Entertainment, Nu Metro Film, and Nu Metro Interactive, with another subsidiary, Popcorn Advertising, responsible for all cinema advertising sales and activations at the Nu Metro Cinema sites.
The Best of Joburg accolade came as the cinema complex was in the midst of major renovation (now completed), which included sound advancements, new seating in the auditoriums and the remodelling of the IL Grande Lounge and foyer area.
Following hot on the heels of this accolade, Nu Metro completed the acquisition of [email protected] in Pretoria, last December. The move cemented the company’s ambitions to diversify its South African footprint, with the complex located in the upmarket Pretoria East region.
Harris said of the acquisition: “We bring a non-formulaic approach to cinema, with numerous exciting customer propositions. This is evidenced in Nu Metro Cinemas holding five of the top 10 cineplexes in the country, namely V&A Waterfront and Canal Walk in Cape Town, The Pavilion in Durban, Montecasino in Johannesburg and Menlyn Park in Pretoria.
“As we place emphasis on diversity and entertainment, housing home-grown brands such as Nu Metro BEAT, Nu Metro Inspires, Woza Wednesdays and Girls Night Out, we are extremely excited to be adding Woodlands to our stable of cineplexes and we will continue to deliver the highest quality films and promotions, which we offer at all of our other cineplexes around the country.”
Quality within the cinema industry can be defined in any number of ways. Certainly the quality of entertainment has improved in recent years, with enhanced sound and vision for the movie goer. Last July Nu Metro announced an agreement with RealD Inc. to install up to 100RealD 3D Cinema Systems.
The transition to 3D movie theatres is an ongoing process as the business gradually converts all of its cinema screens to digital format, as Harris explained at the time:
“With over a quarter of our cinemas already converted to digital, the remainder will be completed within the next 12 to 18 months. This extended relationship with RealD enables us to deliver the world’s most cutting edge 3D technology, so our customers experience a fully immersive entertainment experience every time.”
Commenting at the time on the deal and how it underlined Nu Metro’s position in South Africa, Robert Mayson, Managing Director of RealD Europe Limited said; “Nu Metro Cinemas is a progressive circuit with a focus on delivering a premium entertainment experience. From Africa’s largest RealD 3D screen at Nu Metro Montecasino to Privé seating for a luxury cinema experience, this expansion of 3D capabilities will allow more moviegoers than ever to experience all of the upcoming blockbuster movies in RealD 3D.”
The conversion to 3D cinemas underlines Nu Metro’s commitment to modernising its entertainment fayre, which stretches back to December 2009, when the company opened Africa’s first all-digital cinema complex at Emperors Palace in Johannesburg. The 6-screen multiplex included one of Africa’s largest cinemas – the Pantheon, featuring 517 seats – as well as dedicated 3D cinemas.
“This new cinema complex features the very latest in cinema design and equipment, with all six luxurious cinemas equipped with Barco 2K digital projectors which will enable a wider range of movies to be shown in the highest possible viewing quality. This is Africa’s first all digital cinema complex,” Harris said at the time. The launch of the new theatre came with the extra incentive of free entrance for movie fans on 1st December.
In addition to the above milestone, Nu Metro gained recognition for its coverage of the 2010 Fifa World Cup (TM) held on South African soil. During the tournament, South Africa’s matches were broadcast live and in RealD 3D to fourteen Nu Metro cinemas across the country.
Other exclusives included a short film (in July 2010) about Bokkie, the South African Rugby Union side’s mascot, shown as part of the pre-show reel before every 3D movie. The song ‘Should We Fight Back’, recorded by popular band The Parlotones, was also showcased at Nu Metro RealD 3D cinemas in August of that year.
The same band’s song ‘Dragonflies & Astronauts’ was broadcast live from The Teatro at Montecasino in 3D in July 2011, creating a world first as the transmission was beamed live via satellite to Nu Metro cinemas.
With so many initiatives, keeping the customer informed is of course a top priority for Nu Metro. In recent years, one of its most effective mediums has been through the internet and mobile phone.
Last July the company announced that it had upgraded its mobisite, first launched in 2008, and added an app to enable browsers to book tickets, browse movies, explore cinema offerings and watch trailers on Facebook.
“Four years ago, a smartphone with a small colour screen and a modest internet connection represented the state of the art,” commented Brian Tristam Williams, who looks after digital initiatives at Nu Metro. “Currently, we see many smart and feature phones, tablets and other mobile devices visiting us and we wanted to improve our offerings for the new market without disaffecting loyal owners of older devices.”
The new mobile site includes a responsive design that accommodates different aspect ratios, screen sizes and orientations and larger buttons and icons for touch-screen devices. In addition, the site serves the burgeoning social networking and location-based markets, with seamless sharing to the major platforms, as well as location detection that can guide users to their nearest Cineplex instantly.
In partnership with iGroup, its web technology provider, the cinema chain also launched a new Facebook application, which also invites a range of commenting and sharing options for users.
Cinema is very much moving with the times and Nu Metro is set to continue to pioneer the latest technology, to keep the industry at the forefront of entertainment.