With no signs of decline in the cases of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) breaking out across the world, managers of the film industry in Ghana have outlined potential remedial measures to sustain the industry after the pandemic is fully contained globally.
In a document available to the Daily Statesman, the National Film Authority-Ghana has advocated a switch from the cinemas to streaming platforms filled with both old and new Ghanaian content.
This, it believes, will play a major role in implementing the social distancing directives and quarantining situations, as outlined by the government as part of the measures to contain the pandemic.
According to the document, a movie going survey conducted in China, for instance, revealed that 62 per cent of people will wait for a complete COVID-19 containment before returning to cinemas.
“With reasonable pricing, a new viable way to distribute our films directly in the homes of consumers could be achieved. With the current internet penetration rate for Ghana currently standing at 37.8 per cent, there is a reasonable sized market that we can take advantage of. Effectively executing this could provide us with a solid film distribution channel even in the aftermath of COVID-19,” noted the document.
Emulating developed countries
In addition, the Authority points out that while it is considering to switch to streaming platforms, there is the need to also strategically revive cinemas in Ghana.
According to the Authority, there are some Ghanaian classics that have still not been seen by many and the repackaging and re-releasing of some of these classics at a cheaper price range is most likely to attract varying demographics of film lovers.
It believes Ghana can take a cue from China which is considering using a rerun of old local box office hits and titles in the cinemas to slowly revive interest in patronage. With 100 per cent of the returns on such screenings going to the cinema operators, there is no doubt that they would be motivated to return in business to help revive the industry.
“Something similar can also be done here…of course, this would involve making sure that the available cinemas and screening centres are not over-booked or over- crowded to reduce physical contact,” the document said.
It further called for the establishment of Film Support Funds to cushion filmmakers and the creative arts to get back to work once the pandemic is contained.
“Also, tax rebates and incentives, once deployed, would also go a long way to encourage more private sector involvement. The aftermath looks gloomier for our film industry and creative space if we fail to get ahead of the situation. It would be very difficult to predict the turn of events. But there is hope as long as we choose to stay proactive and prepared,” the Authority pointed out.
Netflix, the world’s largest streaming platform and production outlet, has announced that it has created a $100 million fund to support cast and crew who have found themselves out of work while the SAG-AFTRA has also set up a COVID-19 Disaster Fund for its members to request support from.
The National Film Authority-Ghana is of the view that “Ghana can adopt the following measures to help us get ahead of the situation to get our film industry and the business around it back on track.”
Global film industry
Across the world, and to varying degrees, cinemas and movie theatres have been closed, festivals have been cancelled or postponed, and film releases have been moved to future dates.
Massive losses in the industry have been predicted. The Chinese film industry, for instance, had lost $2 billion by March 2020, having closed all its cinemas during the Lunar New Year period that sustains the industry across Asia. The United States saw its lowest box office weekend since 1998. The U S movie ticket sales plummeted to a historic low in March, cratering out at around $55.3 million, down 44 per cent in just one week.
Cineworld, which happens to be the world’s second-largest cinema group, also warned last week that the impact of the novel Coronavirus could leave it unable to pay its debts and remain in business.
Ghana’s evolving film industry, likewise, has been dealt an unexpected blow that is likely to open it up more to several unforeseen challenges.
In Ghana, Peter Sedufia’s ALOEVERA, for instance, after a very successful record setting opening weekend, was just about entering its second week of screenings at the Silverbird Cinemas as well as rolling out plans for its theatrical releases in other regions.
Several productions, both for stage and the big screen, including Red Carpet, Drop of Happiness, Uncrushable, Faded (Stage Play), Emergency Wedding (Stage Play) that had announced and communicated dates and plans for release have been postponed indefinitely.