Cinema Operators Lament N22.5bn Losses, Seek Reopening of Business

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Peter Uzoho

Following the resumption of domestic flights’ operations, wednesday, Nigerian cinema exhibitors, distributors and employees have called on the federal government to consider their plight and urgently reopen the theatrical sector of the nation’s economy.

The Cinema Exhibitors Association of Nigeria (CEAN) in a message to the federal government, after its meeting in Lagos, passionately appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to speedily open the theatrical sector, including the film industry to prevent it from imminent collapse.

The association said the theatrical sector of the economy had lost over $50million, equivalent to N22.5billion and more than 5,000 industry jobs, since the federal government imposed the lockdown in March, as part of its efforts to curtail the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

Addressing journalists after the meeting, the Chairman of CEAN, Mr. Patrick Lee, lamented the enormous financial loss suffered by the Nigerian film industry due to the continued suspension of cinema operations, and the theatre in general as a result of the lockdown.

Lee declared that unless something drastic was done, the Nigerian film industry, which went into a free fall as a result of the lockdown, faced possible extinction.

He recalled that the Nigerian film industry, reputed to be the second biggest film industry in the world based on the number of films released, was before COVID-19 set in, producing an average of 50 films weekly, which accounted for over N200billion in annual film industry revenue.

These, he explained, was aside the fact that the industry was providing over one million jobs per year, thus ranking as one of the highest employers of labour in the country, and second only to the agricultural sector.

The theatrical industry, according to World Bank estimates, has the potential to produce one million more jobs.

While acknowledging the efforts being made by the government to re-open the economy, with emphasis on prioritising the safety of Nigerians, CEAN noted that it was also “expedient to consider the huge economic disaster brought upon this very important sector by the continued suspension of cinema operations and other film-based businesses in the country.”

The association further said: “Over 250,000 workers, some of whom are directly employed by 58 taxpaying cinemas in the country have been furloughed.

“Recent multi-million dollar investments, like MX4D, IMAX & 4DX theatre halls with heavy technical equipment, have been left to deteriorate; international/local creditors and investors are crying out for their money; production of films has been suspended, consequently resulting in joblessness and huge debts for Nollywood professionals.

“In 2019, the sector grossed over N10 billion in box office earnings alone, with estimated total revenue of N35 billion.

“The association, therefore, added everything and inferred that “the most rational treatment from the federal government should be to include cinema and allied services in all possible financial interventions.”