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Why Silverbird Cinemas Port Harcourt failed


In the face of the widely publicized shutdown of Silverbird Group companies; Silverbird Cinemas, Silverbird Television and Rhythm FM, by the Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON), I decided to consider the reasons why the multi-billion naira entertainment company was owing up to 11 billion naira. One answer stood out: the cinemas and stations owned by the Silverbird Group were obviously not bringing in enough revenue. The question then loomed, why? Naturally, I examined as the sample case, the Silverbird cinema situated at former Obi Wali Cultural Centre, Abonnema wharf, Diobu, Port Harcourt.

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This post is a review of the Silverbird cinemas Port Harcourt, an examination of why it has failed and suggestions on what to do next.

Some days ago, I visited the Silverbird Cinema in Port Harcourt to see a movie. It was the first time I was going to that cinema in almost two years, and while I realize the clientele had dropped in a, I was not expecting what I met when I got there. The place was a like a graveyard. Asides from myself and my girlfriend and perhaps two other people, there were no patrons at all, on a Saturday afternoon. It was astounding.

So, why did the Silverbird Cinema, one of the top cinemas in Port Harcourt fail?

Robberies outside the carpark

Location is really important in business and one of the mistakes Silverbird Cinemas Port Harcourt made was not getting a really good location. While the former Obi Wali cultural centre is an imposing structure with room for each of the seven halls and spaces the cinema uses, the surrounding environments are not very safe. Recall that the cultural centre is located at the Abonnema wharf, which like waterfronts everywhere is a den of thieves and other malcontents. Leaving the cinema late at night, several patrons have complained of being harassed or robbed by hoodlums lurking around the compound, or in some rare cases, the taxi drivers.

By the time Ben Murray-Bruce settles his debts with the AMCON, management should ensure to create measures to secure the environment around the cinema in Port Harcourt. Lights should be posted outside, along with security personnel. This will help to restore confidence in patrons visiting the cinema for late night movies.

Proximity to the Competition

One of the mainstays of business is competition. If the idea is viable, there will always be competition. However, the mark of a good business is the ability to outdo the competition. That is another thing that Silverbird Cinema Port Harcourt failed to do. The proximity of Silverbird Cinema PH to the Filmhouse cinemas at SPAR Port Harcourt Mall, Azikiwe road, created an option for patrons. Anyone could decide to cross over from one to the other with as little as a N50 fare. This should have warned Silverbird Cinema that it was time to up their game, and provide better service for their patrons in order to outdo their trending competition. Failure to do so is a major reason why their clientele trickled away slowly, and then in a flood.

Fewer attractions compared to competition

The competition for the SIlverbird Cinema Port Harcourt includes Genesis Deluxe Cinemas at Genesis Center, GRA and the Filmhouse Cinemas, located at SPAR Port Harcourt mall. Unlike the former, both Genesis and Filmhouse are housed in a large complexes filled to the brim in exciting shops, restaurants, and lots of beautiful people. SIlverbird Cinemas as compared is dark and dinghy. A lot of the Port Harcourt residents who visit the competition do so just to walk around and take pictures, and sometimes, they end up at the cinema. The more exciting and busy a place is, the more likely it will attract more business.

The management should ensure that upon return, they offer discounts to more companies and businesses to come pitch tents at the Silverbird cinema. This will help to brighten the place and as a result, drag patrons over.

Expensive food

The popcorn, ice cream, confectionaries and drinks offered at the SIlverbird cinema are several notches more expensive than those offered by their closest competition, Filmhouse Cinema. In the easiest terms possible, popcorn sold at SIlverbird Cinema Port Harcourt is only fit for throwing, and not for eating.

Terrible customer service

Based on personal experience, here are a bunch of facts about the kind of service given at Silverbird Cinemas Port Harcourt:

First off, the power generators go off during movies. There is such a thing as Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) and surely one could have been gotten to ensure that service is never disrupted while movies are going on.

Secondly, the times for the movies do not correspond with the information on the website or movie guides. On several occasions, I have driven madly through traffic only to get to the cinema and be told that the movie I was rushing for was no longer showing at the cinema, even if it was stated on the website or movie guide/brochure.

Thirdly, the machines at the ticketing booth/box office do not work sometimes, forcing patrons to enter the cinema hall based on “recommendations” by the agent in charge.

Fourthly, the POS machines do not work. For someone like me who does not carry cash, this is a HUGE no-no. Why will I  go to a place where I cannot pay for services as I would like?

That explains itself. (Click here to pay for your copy of Good to Go and save your copy)

Decaying structure

Paint peeling off the walls, the sign itself falling off from the shingle, and the worsening state of the restrooms all point to a structure demanding for an overhaul. Port Harcourt people are trendy at best and very judgmental at the worst times. A cinema that doesn’t look like it dropped out of London is usually not worth anyone’s time.

sign falling off

Can you see the sign falling off? And the marks of grease and algae on the walls?

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An overhaul of the entire structure, focusing on the exterior, electrical systems, website portals and ticketing machines is absolutely necessary before the cinema opens up again. That’s the only way the company can be sure to invite clients and patrons back.

Otherwise, in no time, the name of the Silverbird Group will again be dragged through the mud, shutdown and clamped up, for even more debt.

Christopher Aneni

Follow on twitter @Stillweather

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Views expressed are only those of the authors.

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