2021 is the worst year for the local film industry in a decade, according to SA Box Office Report

Riaad Moosa and Joey Rashdien in New Material.

  • The National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) has released the 2021 South African Box Office Report.
  • Last year, the country’s box office revenue amounted to R325 million.
  • The 10 highest-grossing films at the South African box office in 2021 were all international films.
  • 14 South African films produced in 2021 collectively contributed only 1% to total South African box office receipts.

According to the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) 2021 South African box office reportnot a single local film made it into the top 10 most-watched films of 2021, with local films generating less than 1% of the year’s total box office receipts.

The report says that as the South African film industry emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, the South African government “has not done enough to revitalize the industry”.

According to the South African Box Office Report 2021, the country’s box office revenue last year amounted to R325 million – however, nearly two-thirds (60%) of this revenue was generated by only 10 of the 155 films released in the country – with not a single local film in the top 10.

With 14 South African films (9% of 155) produced locally in 2021, they collectively only contributed 1% to total South African box office receipts.

Also worrying: of the R2,517,014 generated at the box office by these 14 domestic films, 95% of the revenue came from just three films, all of them comedic: New material (R1.013 million), Barakat (R849 370) and Kaalgat Karel (R520 399).

Top 10 films produced in South Africa in 2021.

Top 10 films produced in South Africa in 2021.

Analysis of trends in locally produced films by the South African Box Office Report shows that not only is the number of locally made films declining in South Africa, but the revenue generated by these local films is also declining.

The relatively poor performance of local films discourages local producers from releasing new films. And the decline in the number and revenue of local films over the past decade in South Africa has led to South Africans not having an incentive to pay to see local films in cinemas.

Revenues from all films produced in South Africa show an overall downward trend, from R84 million in 2012 to R60 million in 2019. 2013 was the best performing year of the past decade, generating 101 million rand, while 2021 was the worst performing year. and only generated R2.5 million.

The number of domestic films released during this period also decreased from 19 in 2012 to 14 in 2021.

To boost local cinema, the report says, “actors in the film industry and government will need to work together and devise innovative strategies to make this happen.”

“The underperformance of South African films may also be due to the growing popularity of subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) services such as Netflix and Showmax,” the report said.

“These platforms have brought convenience to South African audiences, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic and associated lockdown. More than half of films produced in South Africa in 2021 were released on SVOD platforms.”

The 10 highest-grossing films at the South African box office in 2021 were all international films: Spider-Man: No Coming Home, no time to die, Sing 2, Fast and Furious 9, Encanto, Eternals, Godzilla vs. Kong, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Venom: let there be carnage and Dunes.

Spider-Man: No Coming Homereleased in December, became the biggest earner at the South African box office of the year, accounting for almost a quarter of 2021 revenue.

Most (59%) of the films released in 2021 in South Africa were distributed by Filmfinity and Empire Entertainment.

The South African Box Office Report 2021 recommends that to maximize box office revenues, film industry players invest in increasing the number of theaters “to reach wider audiences in new domains. This will generate more entries and therefore more income”.

The report says South African filmmakers will need innovative ideas and government support to improve their content, production quality and publicity. “The government will have to support the film industry and aim to bring it back to its pre-pandemic performance.”

See the full report here.

Gladys T. Hensley