Opposite the Mamprobi Presbyterian Church and five meters away on the right side of Mamprobi post office in Accra, is Plaza cinema. As a young boy growing up in Mamprobi in the early 90s, I saw thousands of movie-goers who huddled Plaza cinema just to watch movies.
Built over 50 years ago, Plaza cinema was not the only cinema then. We had: Rex, Roxy, Orion, Opera, Globe, Dunia, Ophel, Orbit, Laskala, Olympio, 5-Star, Royal, Rega cinemas respectively, and others (my memory can’t recall). Today, most of these cinemas have been architecturally turned into churches and big stores.
Currently, National Theatre and the Accra Mall – Silverbird Cinemas serve as the steadiest venue for movie makers as far as movie premiering or screening is concerned. Out of the lot, the only existing old cinema that caught my attention for this write up is Plaza cinema, because, I grew up seeing it and went there on many occasions to watch movies.
I recall watching old Ghanaian movies such as; Confessions, You Can’t Laugh, Dangerous Game, The Police Officer, Escape to Love, Justice, Babina, Out of Sight, Out of Love, Expectations, Kanana, When the Heart Decides, Ghost Tears, Dark Sands, Suspense, Namishia, The Noise of Silence, A Mother’s Revenge, Baby Thief, My Sweetie, A Stab in the Dark, Loving You, Unconditional Love, Who killed Nancy?, Double Trouble, I Surrender, Fatal Decision, Candidate for Hell, Marijata, Just Once, Cracked Illusion, Diabolo, Black Sunday, Okukuseku and others. Indeed, when we were we then, where were you?
Comparing Plaza Cinema to National Theatre and Silverbird Cinemas, the former has many comparative advantages to the latter. Plaza cinema if architecturally re-crafted, can accommodate 15,000 audiences. It has a large reserved land size for car parks.
Location-wise, Plaza cinema is at a vantage point, thus, on the main Mamprobi road. Hundred meters from its right side is Mamprobi police station. Another hundred meters from its left side is Korle-Bu teaching hospital. The essence is that, if organizers face unwarranted hooliganism from agitated audience, policemen can just walk to the scene and calm the grounds.
Should there be casualties, they can be conveyed to Korle-Bu in no time for medical attention. Aside using the cinema for movie premiers, it can also be used for almost all showbiz or entertainment concerts. Truly, a great asset is left in shambles.
Unfortunately, the over 50 year old Plaza cinema is still physically standing but wailing for attention. My recent regular evening visits to the cinema to see how the cinema is faring gave me moistened eyes. A cinema that has hosted thousands of audience before now hosts between 10-16 movie-goers.
Gate fee is 50p and even with that, the organizers are sometimes forced to slash it down to 40p or 30p in order not to run an empty movie show. No Ghanaian or Nigerian movies are shown at the cinema. The only movies shown are Bollywood and Hollywood movies. India movies do the greatest magic of pulling massive crowd – 20 people. Plaza cinema today looks as wretched as a madman and pitiful as an orphan.
Sadly for us, the West who introduced an alternative medium of watching movies has their cinemas still running while ours are dead. People began losing interest in cinemas somewhere in the 80s and mid 90’s due to Coup d’états with its associated curfews and the influx of VCD’s and DVD’s coupled with their VCD and DVD machines over the VHS machines.
Subsequently, many homes started using VCD/DVD machines to watch movies at home; hence, no need of going to the cinema to watch movies. Most private cinema operators seeing the apathy for cinemas sold out their cinemas to Men of God.
The government’s divestiture policies then made the government partner with foreign investors – foreigners. That was how the erstwhile Ghana Film Industry (GFI) which was in charge of government cinemas became Ghana Malaysian Film Industry (GAMA Films).
Then came the rise in private television establishments. These television stations started showing movies on their channels. Around this time, piracy began surging. The computer with its internet facility as well as mobile phones with Bluetooth and infra-red specs, registered their ugly faces and things finally fell apart!
As to whether technology came to help our movie industry or not is a debate for another time. Nonetheless, my regular attendance of movie premiers reveal all hopes is not yet lost. Ghanaians now love to go to the movies. The culture of going back to the cinemas has been resuscitated but the question is; “where are the cinemas?”
The last time I inquired, GAMA Films was in charge of managing Plaza Cinema, Rex Cinema and Roxy Cinema. These cinemas exist till date. All that is required is investors to make capital out of them.
My question is, if GAMA Films cannot manage these three cinemas, why don’t they sell them out to private cinema investors or go into partnership with them or better still lease them out for cinema operation? Ghana’s movie industry is now making strides. This is the time we need more cinemas to make it grow. Until then……MOTWUM!!