Leading South African distributor and exhibitor Ster-Kinekor is to close five multiplexes and put another four up for sale. This amounts to 20% of its cinema screens in the country. In addition, there have been job losses at head office and regional offices in order to cut costs.

Cinemas in Mabopane, Highgate, Parow, Cloisters and Westgate, in the coloured township of Mitchell's Plain, have all been shut down. Ster-Kinekor has also put up for sale cinema complexes in Pinetown, Kimberley, Pietersburg and Upington. The company is still in negotiations about six other cinemas.

Frisky Domingues, Ster-Kinekor's development executive, has said that the company has received offers for the complexes from local businessmen and other cinema operators. Ferdi Gazendam, chief operating officer of Primedia, the listed media group that owns Ster-Kinekor, said that the cinemas are being closed as part of the drive to turn the company around by disposing of loss-making local and offshore cinema interests. Last week it emerged that it is to close its multiplexes in neighbouring Zimbabwe.

Recently the group, which bought Ster-Kinekor in 1998 for what many believe was an overpriced $187m (R1.5bn), has been struggling to sell its interests in Ster Century Europe and the Middle East. Primedia's results in the six months to last December took a massive battering when cinema attendance fell by 12%.