Cinema culture and the elitists’ equation

AT the 100th edition of Committee for Relevant Arts (CORA) stampede, a mild drama that could be titled ‘the sides of the Thespians’ played itself out amongst the panelists who originally were supposed to be talking on the modalities for accessing and disbursing Jonathan’s grant/loan to the entertainment industry.

While a school of thought led by the Ace Cinematographer cum Culturalist, Tunde Kelani was of the opinion that more cinemas should be built and cinema culture should be promoted, another school of thought led by a renowned filmmaker, Mamood Alli- Balogun believe that the cinema model is elitist in nature, hence DTH is key and should be encouraged while the marketing /distribution process should be fortified.

Technically speaking, these two personalities spoke beautifully and convincingly in support of their models. Both models are acceptable to me and workable, especially with the population of the potential viewers across the nation and beyond. However, as much as I wouldn’t want to pitch my tent against either of the models, I would also advise that we should do a critical analysis of sustainable marketing and distribution models across the leading film producing nations.

First, viewing the cinema model from a business angle alone will be an attempt to strangulate the beauty of film as encapsulated in Sembene Ousmane’s adage that, ‘his films were “the night school” of Africa. In films, audiences could see the source of their alienation and oppression revealed’. A cinema across the globe is the centre of modern urban leisure, and to a great extent a virile tool of stress management. Also, cinema is where social education is being administered in a serene ‘classroom’ (cinema), larger than life sized screen, real to life sound, quality picture, etc without the formality of an instructor or text books. This is not to say that we can’t learn socially via home videos, but researches established the fact that, reception and negotiation of film text are determined by where and who you watch the film with. Nothing diminishes a movie so much as shrinking the height of Omotola Jalade Ekeinde into a DVD miniature of Aki and Papaw. If you doubt this, try the two.

Second, Connor Ryan in one of his write-ups made us to understand that , there are close to 13,000 theatre screens ( multiplexes and e-cinemas) in India for different categories of people, and an average of 15million Indians out of the1.2billion visit the theatre daily; which simply means, an average of one screen per 100,000 people. Meanwhile, National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) identified 39,580 movie screens (38, 974 Indoor and 606 drive-in) in the United States of America. In nearby South Africa of 48 million people, the viewers are hosted to more than 400 screens, while Nigeria of 160 million people can only boast of 50 screens- equivalent of one screen per 3million Nigerians. Considering this simple arithmetic, it a clear indication that the industry is losing huge amount of money and denying the army of unemployed youths the potential employment opportunities.

Be that as it may be, the argument of per capita income of the potential viewers can’t be over looked. But the way out is very simple. Private participation under BOT arrangement should be introduced to promote and sustain community cinemas at different local councils, and cottage cinemas at each ward to encourage competitive market. The Indians watch movies between 50 to 250 Rupees (#100- #2000). This is quite achievable in Nigeria, especially with the massive bandwagon effect that we have experienced in the patronage of GSM phones and eateries. This model will definitely reduce the exorbitant sharing formular in favour of the current cinema owners, and also contain the hydra headed surge of piracy to a commendable level as DTH will be the last resort.

Primarily, the Nigerian audience would enjoy standard films, because filmmakers would need to up their games to meet up with the cinema standards. We are likely going to have critical audience who will not again be subjected to cultural mutilation, idiotic stereotypes, moral erosion, social immiseration, paranormal promotion and materialistic doctrines. Our films would now be issue- centred and bring to fore the realistic plane of understanding with respect to cultural memory and national identity.

See you at the cinemas!

-Adesemoye, a film content director, is a lecturer in the department of Mass Communication, Lagos State Polytechnic.

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