Cinemas, Multiplexes And The Nigerian Economy

The launch of a film-projecting technology fitted with visually-enhancing sensations to immerse viewers may move the movie industry to a higher pedestal. Entertainment Editor VICTOR AKANDE examines the economic potential of the state-of-the-art facility.

WITH a modern technology that will not only project films with visually enhanced sensations but literarily immerse fun seekers in the virtual movie space, entertainment is getting chic in Nigeria.

This is the lot of Image Maximum (IMAX), a state-of-the-art giant motion picture format which has just been launched in Lagos. It is the first of its kind in West Africa.

“Prepare to be amazed and blown away,” says Kene Mkparu, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Filmhouse, whose company is partnering IMAX on the landmark project called Filmhouse IMAX.

Created by a Canadian firm, IMAX, the film format, uses a set of cinema projection standards to render digitally enthralling and harmonious surround sound to the delight movie buffs.

“Imagine being immersed in a 4-storey high silver screen. Would you rather watch a movie or be in it”, Mkparu asked, saying that “IMAX is to cinema what Disneyworld is to amusement/theme parks”.

IMAX is the most widely used system for special-venue film presentations. Wikipedia records that as of June 2016, there were 1,102 IMAX theatres in 69 countries, of which 990 were in commercial multiplexes.

The cinema is being housed by Filmhouse’s single largest Cineplex in Nigeria, sitting on a land space of about 3000 square metre.

Located on Dr. Muiz Banire Street, off Durosinmi Etti Drive, Lekki Phase I, the new Filmhouse IMAX theatre comes with Premium and Signature screens, the Cube, Signature Lounge and the Terrace.

At the launch of the facility in Lagos, were the size of the screen and the state-of-the-art equipment wowed filmmakers as they parleyed on the project with IMAX Vice President in charge of Theatre Development, Mr. Giovanni Dolci. That visit was about Dolci’s third official visit to Nigeria on the IMAX project, for which he had met other previous partners.

Although the deal with Filmhouse was sealed in Barcelona on June 24, last year, Dolci, during a visit to Filmhouse Headquarters in Lagos, said that the plan had been on for a long time, but that IMAX got some disappointments on earlier partnership plans.

It is not clear where the disappointment came from, but The Nation gathered that the initial proposed location for IMAX in Nigeria was FESTAC Town, Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area.

IMAX’s first visit to Nigeria was between July 15 and 16, 2013. The two-day working visit by Dolci was at the instance of Mr. Ekenyerengozi Michael Chima, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of International Digital Post Network Limited.

Despite Dolci’s meeting with several stakeholders, including policy makers, the project could not fly under the initial arrangement, until two years later, when IMAX announced Filmhouse as its new ‘bride’ in Nigeria.

The agreement underscores the company’s continued spread in Africa, having signed a deal earlier in Angola and adding four new theatres to its network in South Africa. There is no gainsaying that Nigeria ranks as the continent’s largest economy, so, it was long overdue before IMAX found its feet in Nigeria.

President, IMAX EMEA, Andrew Cripps said of the deal: “We are delighted to join forces with Filmhouse Cinemas and enter Nigeria, which represents a key strategic move for our expansion in Africa. Recent reports project that Nigeria’s entertainment and media revenues will reach an estimated $8.5 billion by 2018 – more than doubling from 2013.”

“As the biggest economy on the continent and a market that is extremely under-screened, we believe that together with Filmhouse, we can seize the mutual growth opportunities that exist in Nigeria and bring the world’s most immersive cinematic experience to more audiences across the country.”

Filmhouse’s mission, according to Mkparu “is to establish the best movie-going experience in Nigeria. IMAX will help us realise this goal by delivering an immersive and differentiated experience previously unavailable to Nigerian moviegoers.

“As we continue our aggressive expansion plans, IMAX will serve as an anchor attraction in our multiplex in Lagos, redefining the premium cinema experience in Nigeria. We are proud to be the first to introduce IMAX in the country and look forward to broadening its reach.”

He said that Filmhouse has been implementing a strategic development plan to roll-out 25 cinemas over a six-year period. The rolling plan began in December, 2012.

New dawn for Nollywood

Having also played a part in the hosting of Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF)’s Artistic Director, Cameron Bailey, who was in Nigeria few months ago to announce Nigeria’s selection for the City-to-City film showcase, Mkparu is excited by the positive development in Nollywood.

He said: “…Counting TIFF , increased box office numbers, amazing film studios now set up, film financing aplenty, our film festivals at heightened levels, awards making a difference to careers, international players paying closer attention to us, our knowledge level growing… carpe diem!”

What filmmakers told Mkparu

Ralph Nwadike: “Proud of you Kene. Thanks for giving Nollywood producers more opportunities to dare.”

Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen: “Thanks to God I am still young…witnessing all these great stuff happening in my time…I always spoke about this long ago… Kudos to Kene and the entire Filmhouse team for pushing us further to a greater future…”

Chidi Nwokeabia: “A well-deserved congratulations to the Filmhouse/FilmOne team. This sure is the beginning of greater things ahead.”

IMAX and the

Nigerian economy

Two Nigerian filmmakers – Mr. Uzodinma Okpechi and Mr. Justin Morgan spoke with The Nation on the economic viability value of the IMAX project to the Nigerian Gross Domestic Project (GDP). They explained how the new commercial and artistry drive among practitioners would galvanise motion picture industry in the country.

According to Okpechi, it will take some time to quantify the project’s economic impact.

“By December, we will have about 24 screens and just one or two as will be revealed, are IMAX screens. But definitely, Cinemas will exceed the half a billion mark this year in gross revenues.”

Morgan also said: “You know the business of film is an economy. As an economy improves, with regards to infrastructure, more jobs are created, hence more revenue.”

Raising the Nollywood ante

Looking at the positive side of the project in terms of artistry and returns on investment, filmmakers believe that the IMAX entry will prepare them for a more sophisticated audience, thereby improving the current status of Nollywood films?

Okpechi said: “Technically, it is a welcome development. IMAX screens are massive. Your camera has to be high-end and also your sound design and recording. Nigerian filmmakers will be challenged with better production values and filming techniques.

“The game is already changing with high-end cams like the Arri Alexa series, Red Camera series and Black magic series, URSA and mini URSA. IMAX cameras will further enhance this because you are filming now having in mind that you are projecting on a massive screen.”

Okpechi pointed out that the cinema culture can only get better and better because digital filmmaking and advancement in film equipment is making filming more democratic.

Morgan said: “IMAX is the optimum medium of viewing media, especially via the silver screen. In my opinion, tech is the least important element of filmmaking, compared to script, cast…but with improvements in tech, invariably there will be sure enhancements in the imperatives.

“For starters, IMAX is best with action and/or fast paced action sequences, animation, SFX type movies. This is a genre we lack many of in Nollywood. I think with the advent of IMAX will proliferate more in this genre in no time to come.”

On the sophistication of the local audience for an IMAX experience, Okpechi said: Trust me, they are sophisticated enough. Any cinema goer is looking for an experience beyond popcorn and soft drinks. The Dolby surround sound reproduction is unimaginable. IMAX is immersive; you feel you are an actor right there in the movie. Yet you know you are not.

“At the end, you relish the wonderful journey the technology has taken you than the film. If it is a good movie, it also blows you away mind; body and soul. Indeed, people will always seek to be entertained, same way that people will always pay for quality entertainment.”

Morgan also said: “One thing we all share as human beings is the ability to discern quality. Pictures are the same, whether in Kafanchan, Katmandu or Kansas…”

On the viability of the project with the economic situation in the country, Morgan said: “There’re numerous studies that show the fact that it is during economic hardships that entertainment flourishes. After all, cinemas began in earnest, during the Great Depression in America…”

IMAX, TIFF: A coincidence?

The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) has just given Nollywood an opportunity to showcase its products to the world in its City-to-City focus, with the IMAX now present in Nigeria, how will the latter enhance more of such opportunities for the industry?

There are pointers that it is not a coincidence that the TIFF City-to-City project chose Lagos this year, knowing that Nollywood is an emerging brand, even as cinemas and multiplexes are the in-thing in Nigeria right at the moment.

Okpechi described the coming of Image Maximum and TIFF into Nollywood as a huge blessing.

“It is an interesting time to be an indie filmmaker. I expect collaborations in film productions and training of filmmakers. I expect that this officially puts Nollywood on the map of comity of filmmakers”, Okpechi said.

Morgan spoke of what to expect before the end of the month when nine Nigerian films and another – ‘Vaya’ by a South Africa-based Nigerian, Akin Omotosho, will take center stage.

He said: “I believe our participation at the forthcoming TIFF will be unprecedented. We are well represented and the results will be stunning, which will serve as proper impetus for more, quality films showcased in festivals all over the world.”

Nollywood in the next 10 years

Analysts spoke of their expectations of the movie industry in the next decade.

Okpechi said: “In the next 10 years, I expect Nollywood to be a creative hub of film and television works high on production values and a very structured way of doing show business. There will be more Cineplex, more money for filmmakers and film journalists and critics. There will also be better and more credible awards. I see our film festivals especially AFRIFF (Africa International Film Festival) competing globally.”

Giving his projection, Morgan said: “In the next 10 years, our film sector will be exponentially improved, in creativity and business-wise. We will have a truly viable economy with real export revenues realized…heck, it has to be because I’m counting on it.”