Fast & Furious 7 was the top earner in South Africa in 2015
Fast & Furious 7 was the top earner in South Africa in 2015, grossing R89.9-million.

Gross box office takings grew an impressive 36% in 2015, despite an increase in ticket prices, according to the 2015 South Africa Box Office Report published earlier this month by the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF).

A total R1.198-billion gross was recorded for the year, up from R880-million in 2014. Box office takings from locally made films increased by 25% to R69-million, up from R55-million in 2014, accounting for 6% of gross box office.

There were 243 titles shown across the country, up from 228 titles released in 2014. Of these, 22 were South African titles. Most were of North American origin, accounting for 71% (R851-million) of gross takings, while UK/European titles accounted for 11% (R127-million).

South Africa's box office charts were dominated by big-budget Hollywood movies, led by Fast & Furious 7 and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, both of which grossed well over R50-million. Completing the top five were Avengers: Age of Ultron, Jurassic World and Minions. Action movies were the highest grossing genre, taking 20% of gross box office. Only five locally produced films grossed over R5-million.

Growth in films released on digital 3D screens continued, meanwhile, with 35 titles released on 3D (including IMAX) format claiming 45% of gross takings, while standard format (classic 2D) movies accounted for 55%. Another development was the imminent arrival of 4DX cinemas.

Awards for local films

Local films may not have fared as well domestically as international films, but they were well received by international audiences. Among numerous accolades:

  • Die Windpomp (The Windmill) won the Audience Award for Best Foreign Film at the 2015 Long Beach International Film Festival in New York;
  • Thina Sobabili won the Audience Choice Award at the Pan African Film Festival 2015 in Los Angeles;
  • Necktie Youth won Best South African Feature Award and the International Jury Award for best director Sibs Shongwe-La Mer at the Durban International Film Festival; and
  • Miners Shot Down won Best Documentary at the International Emmy Awards and was supported by the National Film and Video Foundation.

In addition, South Africa's popularity as an international filming location continued to grow. Feature films with local shoots included Avengers: Age of Ultron, Mad Max Fury Road, and Chappie, which was directed by South African Neill Blomkamp.

Most popular genres

Action movies were the most popular genre in 2015, garnering the highest earnings at 20% of box office gross (R245-million), followed by action/adventure and animation both at 17%. Just 72 dramas were released in the year, earning only R96-million. With 30 titles in the year, comedy earned R154-million.

Of locally produced films, comedy was the highest grossing genre, with just three titles taking R28-million, followed by drama with 10 titles earning R22-million, and romance with four titles earning R13-million. South African animated film Sneeukoningin earned just R986 000.

Top earners

Fast & Furious 7 was the top earner in South Africa in 2015, grossing R89.9-million, in keeping with earlier releases of this franchise. Star Wars followed with R51.5-million in the eight weeks it was on the local circuit, while Minions in third spot earned R50-million in 12 weeks. Others on the top 25 list were Avengers, Jurassic World, Fifty Shades of Grey and Spectre.

The three local films that performed best commercially were Schuks! Pay Back the Money, Ballade vir 'n Enkeling and Mooirivier. Schuks! Pay Back the Money earned R17.6-million, the highest of the three, although it was below par for Leon Schuster movies, which usually gross over R25-million. Ballade vir 'n Enkeling followed with R9.9-million, while Mooirivier earned R7.2-million.

Afrikaans films were the most popular of the local films, accounting for 14 titles released and taking 65% of the local film gross (R45-million). There was only one film in Afrikaans/English, Shucks! Pay Back the Money, taking 25% of the gross. IsiZulu/English language films followed, earning 6% of the gross, or R4.2-million. These films included Gauteng-made movies Tell Me Sweet Something, Ayanda and Hear Me Move.

Support for the local industry

When it came to support for local films, the report touched on the role of distributors and exhibitors. The number of screens showing romantic comedy Tell Me Sweet Something was cut from 47 to 27 in its third week after a successful first two weeks by local movie standards.

In response, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa called an imbizo to look into the distribution of local films and establish a distribution forum, similar to many that exist internationally, to ensure that local content enjoys more exposure. Ongoing engagements between the NFVF, government stakeholders, distributors and exhibitors are expected.

Another concern flagged was that township audiences do not have access to cinemas as many are located in upmarket shopping malls. In addition, township audiences can often not afford admission prices for movies. Distributors and exhibitors have tried to address this by reducing ticket prices in less affluent areas, according to the report.

It concluded that South Africa's cinema industry would continue to post steady growth despite increases in ticket prices. Although this would hit consumer pockets, it would also continue to boost box office revenue.

Source: staff reporter

Contact the Gauteng Film Commission