Requiem for the Cinema Business in Cameroon

14 Sep

By Nwanatifu Nwaco

Elsewhere, movies are released to theaters first before on portable storage, and it is the sale of tickets that sets records on movie successes, nominations for awards and bombs. I remember when one used to watch ‘Cine News’ on Cameroon national television for box office releases and show times for cinemas around the main cities of the country.
The most famous names in the business were cinema Abbia, Le Wouri, Paradis, Roxy and l’Empire. Then came the ”Video Club” which screened movies on 20 inch Tvs in small halls around neighbourhoods and markets. The coming of cheap CD/DVD players sent the home VHS-VCR players into extinction, gone were the days when kids crowded at a neighbours window to peep at a Bollywood or Nollywood movie shown in their living room. Most movie theaters have now been inherited by evangelical churches! In a country where there is the marked absence of youth and animation multipurpose show centres, sports complexes and conference halls have become surrogate screening rooms for movie premiers.
Pirated DVDs and VCDs imported from Asia and Nigeria haven’t done the industry any good as well. Walking at the ‘Poste Centrale’ in the capital Yaounde, one sees pornographic movies sold in plain gaze and access to minors and passerby’s. Age restrictions are not a thing of concern here, further exacerbated by the absence of a regulatory institution on the sale and viewing of audio-video contents.
There are yearly film festivals and exhibitions of locally made films but the ministry of culture nor the various syndicates or unions of actors and actresses has thought it wise to restart and open the cinemas. Private TV stations and cable TV distributors have also cut away large chunks of the cinema going cake. Recent box office releases are shown on these channels with impunity over the copyright abuses.Most locally produced films showtime premiers lack publicity and are mostly hard to find straight-to-DVD productions!! The most collectively viewed pictures on TV are tele-novellas and soap operas from Latin America and the East Indies. after the premier of a home produced movie at a conference hall, they are so afraid of piracy such that one has to rely on personally known actors to get a copy. The publicity is mostly based on social media. we need to invest in copy-protected encryption technology to curb the piracy of discs.

movie broadcast sector needs serious regulation! an active authority which controls the import, distribution and broadcast of copyright material. The unions of artists and actors need to take initiative to track and denounce producers and vendors of pirated material,whether its for home based productions or foreign movies. When we’ll have just licensed distributors selling movies then should we liberalize and regulate the opening up of cinema theaters. Local government councils can come in, private investors and a arts syndicates. Its an industry built around the scarcity of piracy and a perception of going to the cinema theater for fun and promotion of an industry which relies on ticket sales to fund new productions, just as we’re enthusiastic to go to our bars that litter every 2 metres on our streets. 

With the increase usage of smartphones, tablets, pads, more ownership of laptops, smart TVs and other multimedia gadgets from China finding their way into middle and low income homes, the death certificate of the cinema theater in Cameroon has been issued. Media downloading and file sharing has been embraced here actively aided by an increase internet awareness, usage and speedier bandwidth coupled with no authority to track down those downloading and selling copyrighted material online, there’s no iota of hope in sight to resurrect the cinema business.
Welcome to Cameroon where there is no cinema showroom, no cinema going culture for young and old couples, friends and families to go to and watch movies and experience the attractions of popcorn, chips, juices and other souvenirs around it. Very very few know of or have even experienced the thrills of 3D and Imax movie projection and optimized sound systems.


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