VOX CINEMAS TIES UP WITH MANGA PRODUCTIONS
Middle East’s largest exhibitor, VOX Cinemas has been at the forefront of providing immersive cinema experiences to diverse audiences. With a large number of dedicated followers in the region and interesting collaborations with South Asia, anime has been the latest on their radar. Speaking with Karishma Hingorani, Toni El Massih, Chief Content Officer, VOX Cinemas gives insights on the rapidly evolving cinema landscape post-pandemic
TELL US ABOUT THE DEAL WITH MANGA PRODUCTIONS AT THE PRESTIGIOUS BERLINALE FILM FESTIVAL 2020?
At the 2020 Berlinale, VOX Cinemas signed a theatrical distribution deal with Manga Productions to bring The Journey to the big screen. The feature-length anime is currently being shown across seven markets in the MENA region, as part of VOX Cinemas’ commitment to diversify content and ensure that premium Arabic language feature films are made accessible to our discerning audiences.
Manga Productions is a global pioneer in creative content. There is a large appetite for anime in this region and the partnership is aligned with our commitment to offer a wide range of movies to cater to different demographics and preferences.
Last year, we distributed over 90 films. This year, we will distribute approximately 130 movies.
HOW BIG IS ANIME CULTURE IN THE MENA REGION?
Anime culture is huge in the Middle East and has long been a staple of daytime TV. We recently released Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train, which enjoyed phenomenal success at the box office, becoming the highest grossing anime of all time with over 130,000 fans seeing the movie across the MENA region. It was also the first time a fan screening was sold out, proving just how popular this genre is.
HAS FILM DISTRIBUTION IN THE UAE EVOLVED OVER THE YEARS?
We have noticed that the way movies are marketed has changed drastically. Consumers have become very selective in the genres of films they watch now and, as a result, target marketing has become essential.
We have also witnessed more demand for foreign and non-Hollywood movies, as demonstrated by the success of Korean movies such as Parasite and Peninsula. Audiences also have a huge appetite for Arabic content and the market is growing at a huge rate, having doubled in size over the last two years.
HOW ARE CINEMAS PERFORMING POST COVID-19, HAS THERE BEEN ANY CHANGES IN RECENT MONTHS?
In the last month, we have enjoyed exceptional ticket sales for new releases such as F9, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It and Demon Slayer, reiterating the huge potential that blockbusters and must-see movies hold in attracting audiences back to the big screen. The opening weekend for the latest instalment of The Conjuring did five percent better than the prequel, which was released pre- COVID. This is particularly impressive and significant, in light of the capacity restrictions currently in place.
Instilling confidence in guests is also key to the pace of recovery. Listening to our guests is a core value. Since the start of the pandemic, we have been conducting extensive research to better understand customer sentiment. As we have seen from our research, confidence levels are increasing, which bodes well for the industry. Guests feel confident about returning to our cinemas with 91 percent of those surveyed saying, that they were satisfied or extremely satisfied with the innovative health and safety measures we have in place.
DO YOU THINK CINEMA VIEWING EXPERIENCES CAN GET BACK TO NORMAL WITH THE MASSIVE GROWTH IN STREAMING?
We believe fi lms are meant to be watched on the big screen and are committed to providing our guests with an immersive and unrivalled experience that cannot be replicated at home. In fact, several international studies have shown that streaming actually encourages people to attend the cinema more often. Our guests come to VOX Cinemas because they know they can expect state- of-the-art cinemas with best-in-class technology and innovative F&B concepts.
Despite the recent challenges, we are confident about the future of the cinema industry and, with an impressive slate of upcoming movies such as Black Widow, No Time to Die and Jungle Cruise, cinemagoers are returning in large numbers to enjoy the shared and exhilarating experience of watching a movie in a cinema auditorium.
Today’s customers are becoming increasingly discerning and expect a more engaging and dynamic experience, making it essential that we continue to evolve and experiment. We have also noticed that audiences demand bigger screens and immersive sound.
In May, we opened our fi rst hybrid cinema and family entertainment centre in the UAE at Wafi City, which spans two floors and comprises VOX Cinemas integrated with Magic Planet and a variety of F& B concepts to complement the experience. We have also brought back Snow Cinema to Ski Dubai for the summer season due to popular demand. The hugely unique concept allows guests to enjoy the magic of movies surrounded by real snow on the slopes of the world’s best indoor ski Resort.
WHAT OTHER ANIME TITLES AND CONTENT TIE-UPS CAN VIEWERS LOOK OUT FOR IN THE NEAR FUTURE?
VOX Cinemas recently signed an exclusive deal with ODEX, the leading Japanese animation film distributor in SouthEast Asia, to distribute anime movies across the MENA region. Under the new agreement, six titles will be released theatrically across eight territories. Additionally, we signed a deal with Reliance, an Indian film studio that produces Bollywood movies, to distribute their movies across the region.
The pandemic has forced us to look to new regions for content and, with these deals, we are taking a strategic step in adding even more great movies to our summer movie slate.