LAST December, Fresh View Cinemas officially opened its doors to the Zambian movie-going public. Promising the latest in 3D films and local productions, the first outlet, situated at Lusaka's sprawling Manda Hill Mall, comprises six auditoriums with a total seating capacity of 939.
Scheduled to open on June 1 is another outlet at Levy Shopping Mall, similar in scale with its Manda Hill counterpart, the main difference being the size of the halls. Plans are underway to construct a third outlet in Ndola.
Co-project promoter Ceaser Siwale sheds light on this Zambian wholly-owned entity which has quickly established itself as the haunt for many a film buff.
A brief background of Fresh View Cinemas: when was the idea of a cinema first mooted?
Fresh View is not a franchise and is actually wholly Zambian owned. The promoters have been involved in different businesses in Zambia over the last 20 years. They have always believed that Zambia needed alternative forms of entertainment from what was originally on offer. The whole idea behind Fresh View was to give the Zambian public more than 'popcorn and coke' cinema offering.
The whole business is built around offering a lifestyle with a bit of cheekiness and pushing boundaries, hence the name of the company. It's not a traditional name of a business, nor are the corporate colours, but we believe that the name and the colours capture the vision of the promoters.
What challenges did you encounter entering the cinema business?
The biggest challenge we continue to face is securing Zambian films. We have been very blessed with the support we have received from the major USA distribution companies and their representatives in Africa.
Fresh View is using digital technology to screen films. Please elaborate on how this equipment actually works.
Fresh View offers movies in both 2D and 3D, so the first question is actually what is the difference between 2D and the traditional 35mm? 2D picture is definitely sharper and clearer with better contrast and vibrant colours. It has a much higher resolution compared to the standard 35mm motion picture format.
It is a technically larger container for the captured image, thus resulting to a better projection quality in very large movie screens. 2D is vastly superior to other film formats in terms of providing clearer, sharper and steadier images on screen.
Moreover, instead of the standard four-channel stereo tracks available in the standard 35mm prints, 2D offers six tracks, is more compatible with the digital sound formats - DTS - (Digital Theatre Sound, formerly digital theatre systems), SDDS (Sony Dynamic Digital Sound), and Dolby Digital that most modern cinemas use. On the movies we have shown to date this has been best experienced with Mission Impossible IV, Contraband, 'The Exotic Marigold Hotel, among others.
Simply put, 2D is your regular movie that you would see at home or in the cinema.
3D is a specially made film that enhances the fun and makes it more realistic. If you go to see a 3D movie (usually at imax films), you will be given a pair of glasses with one blue lens and one red lens. As you watch the movie with these on, you'll notice the difference because it will be as if the characters are walking right out of the screen at you.
It's a really cool effect (scary as hell if you go to see a horror film!). All in all, they are worth seeing. The most popular 3D movies we have shown so far have been: Puss in boots, Underworld Awakening, Journey 2, Titanic, John Carter and The Lorax!' Other big movies to expect in the next few months in 3D are: Pirates: Band of misfits, The Avengers, (April), Men in Black 3 (May), Prometheus, Madagascar, Ice Age (June) and Spiderman (July).
Another outlet will open at Levy Shopping Mall this month. How many auditoriums will it accommodate?
It'll have six screens, with the largest auditorium to house 320 people, the largest in the country.
When will the Ndola outlet open?
We are targeting to be on the Copperbelt before the end of the year. The operation there will be smaller, with three auditoriums with over 100 seats each.
So do you intend, in the long run, to open more outlets across the country?
Our strategy is not to be a stand-alone operation and we will follow shopping centres within the necessary catchment area and patrons for our product.
When Fresh View opened last year, it was said the cinema would also showcase local productions. How has this aspect of the business fared?
We have faced challenges in finding the right local product that we can screen that would maximise the use of the technology we have in place and also with a storyline that Zambians would appreciate. We are in discussions with two Zambians that are based abroad that have been producing successful movies internationally. Subject to how those discussions go, we could be screening high quality Zambian movies soon.
Who is in charge of the day-to-day operations of the cinema?
We have a team of young Zambians that are very passionate about movies. The average age of the staff is approximately 23-25 years old. Most of them have risen to the challenge of being part of an industry that was essentially non-existent in Zambia six months ago. Some of our staff spend 4-6 weeks in Germany, learning how to operate the various equipment that we have invested in to ensure that Zambians have a first world experience at the movies.
Naturally we are all going through a learning curve and trying to affirm our own identity, but with the overwhelming response the public has given us, we are confident that Fresh View will become a place of entertainment for most Zambians.
What in your opinion makes Fresh View a unique movie-going experience?
The market research and various other data suggests that our market segment is within the 18-34 age range. However we have noticed that by showing movies such as Hugo 3D, Extremely Loud, 'The Descendants, and more recently The Exotic Marigold Hotel, we have seen a larger than expected crowd from an audience in the over 40 category. We are confident that if we are able to offer this age range product (art/indie movies), there will be a larger following.
You mentioned earlier one of the highlights this month was the release of 'Titanic 3D'...
We were very excited about the release of Titanic, on April 5, in 3D. As you are aware, this is the highest grossing movie in Africa in the history of this industry and it ranks second globally (after Avatar 3D') with total proceeds grossing US$1.8 billion. So this release in 3D 15 years later should generate a lot of interest from the public. It also marks 100 years since the actual ship sunk.
What other notable releases can moviegoers look forward to?
Naturally we have a number of movies lined up for this year, some of which are as follows:
Hunger games, Pirates: Band of Misfits, Mirror Mirror, The Avengers, The raven, Think like a man, Battleship, The vow, Material, and What to expect when expecting.
During the Easter weekend we showed eight movies that cross all genres. We also recently released two new movies - Ordinary People (a South African spiritual movie) and did a Wednesday night premiere of American Pie Reunion.
We have also developed a very good relationship with all the major studios/distributors and pretty much have a comprehensive list of all the movies planned for release between 2012 and 2014.
Nearly five months into your operations, how would you describe the public's response to this new cinema outlet?
We have been humbled by the response. We always debated how our corporate colours (and the name of the company) would be received by the public and effectively overnight Fresh View Cinemas became a Zambian household name. We have been advantageous with some of the movies that we have shown and actually proven a number of people wrong.
The Zambian audience is not different from any other globally. People want value for money and the ability to relax, and be entertained in a conducive environment. We have made a significant investment to give Zambians that environment to watch movies.
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