Historical Research Letter ISSN 2224-3178 (Paper) ISSN 2225-0964 (Online) Vol 3, 2012
CINEMA BUSINESS IN LAGOS, NIGERIA SINCE 1903
Oladipo O. Olubomehin, PhD Department of History and Diplomatic Studies, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, Nigeria. E-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org Abstract Cinema business constituted an important aspect of the local economy in Nigeria during the colonial period. The business flourished from 1903 when the first film was shown in Lagos through into the 1970s and 80s. Lagos, being the nerve centre of commercial activities in Nigeria with a cosmopolitan population, had many cinema houses. Apart from enriching the owners, cinemas provided employment for many people and also served an important social function. People visited cinemas for relaxation and entertainment purposes. However, the downturn in the national economy and the emergence of the home video business created a negative effect on cinema ventures as many of the cinema houses were closed down. This paper is a history of the rise and decline of cinema ventures in the city of Lagos, Nigeria. It examines the nature of the business as well as the socioeconomic impact on the society. It tries to unravel the factors that led to the decline of the business and the new trend in the re-emergence of cinema houses in the country. Key words: Cinema, Business, Lagos, Nigeria. Introduction Prior to the advent of the television and home video in Nigeria, cinema was one of the major means of entertainment and relaxation in the country. Lagosians, in particular, already had a vibrant cinema culture since the colonial era. Cinemas, seeing films or motion picture was a popular form of entertainment and relaxation in Nigeria before independence in 1960. Cinema is a means of information, education and cultural development of the masses (Enahora, 1989: 101). It is a means of communication and comprehension. Cinema enables the people to immerse themselves in an imaginary world for a short period of time in addition to other side attractions it offers. The cinema business flourished in Lagos from 1903 up the late 1980s and 90s. In its heyday, Lagos had more than forty cinema houses (Akarue et al, 1992: 37). The cinema houses availed the public the opportunity of viewing varieties of favourite films, both foreign and local. In spite of the importance of cinemas in the social and economic life of the Nigerian people, the subject seems not to have appealed to historians. The few works available on the subject of cinemas in Nigeria have been done by non-historians. This paper, which complements earlier studies on the subject of cinemas in Nigeria has been written from historical perspective. The research questions which this paper seeks to answer are: How did cinema business emerge in Nigeria? What was the nature of the business? How were movies and films sourced? Who were the audience at the cinemas? How profitable was the cinema business and what impact did cinemas have on the society? In short, this paper examines the business side of the cinema culture in Lagos, the economic nerve centre of Nigeria. Let us begin with a review of the little literature available on this subject. We do have many works that deal with the history of cinemas in Nigeria but there are a few studies on the subject of film making and television. For example, there is the work of Augustine Enahora on film makers and film making in Nigeria. The work sheds light on the problems and prospects of film making in Nigeria (Enahora, 1989). It also looks at the role of the cinema in national development. However, this work cannot be regarded as an historical research work on the subject of cinema business in Nigeria. Another work we can consider is that of Charles Umeh. This work examines the advent and growth of television broadcasting in Nigeria. Umeh’s (1989) work sheds light on political and educational factors that influenced the establishment of television stations in...
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