It appears not even an impressive run at the South African box office was enough to give local romantic comedy Tell Me Sweet Something a fair run at local cinemas. Just days after we all celebrated news that the movie debuted in the top 5 with earnings hitting R1 million within just five days, Tell Me Sweet Something has been put on life support by powers that be. Akin Omotoso revealed in a heartfelt email published on David Kau’s Facebook page that despite performing well, the movie was chopped down from 47 screens to just 27 in the country for reasons still quite unclear.
In an email penned by the writer and director to the stakeholders, Akin Omotoso details not only the unfair treatment dealt by the movie in local cinemas, which he described as perpetuating the absurd notion that black films just don’t do well, but also mentions the struggle to drum up support and get funding for the film because there was a strongly held view that there are no audiences for black South African films. Except perhaps if the narrative is one that replicates negative tropes of blackness as inherently criminal, poor etc.
“Instead of the constant problematizing of black lives we wanted to give audience a positive experience a film about successful, handsome black people falling in love in Joburg, a Joburg re-imagined as a city of love. In other words we set out to disprove this myth”, he wrote.
So, why the rushed chop?
To make way for new releases, according to Doug Place, the Marketing Executive at Ster Keniko. Place claims on DestinyConnect that while he is aware that the movie has done well in some cinemas, it had to be removed from others where it was not bringing in as much money. And with 5-10 movies being released weekly, some movies just need to go.
Except, the movie has started being taken off cinemas where it is also doing well, according to Omotoso.
“It has now started to be taken out of key sites such as Gateway and Sandton, where the film is performing extremely well. this will have a big impact on the films bottom line”, he jotted down in the email. Omotoso continued to reveal that upon seeking for an answer as to why the movie was being removed from the aforementioned screen despite performing well there, he was soon told that not even doing well was going to cut it there.
‘When asked why it was being taken out of site, this was the reply from Mr. Clive Fisher the GM of Acquisitons and Scheduling replied,
“I understand the film is still performing at Sandton, however with only 10 screens and the amount of titles releasing every week we do not have space for the title anymore.
I had another look to try and see if we could load a few shows for the film but unfortunately there is no space.
In reaction to the news, lead actor Maps Maponyane took to Twitter to express great disappointment at the decision.
The local audience’s appetite will not develop, nor will our film industry grow to its potential if cinemas don’t fully support local films.
— Maps Maponyane (@MapsMaponyane) September 28, 2015