Nigerian cinema exhibitors, distributors and employees have sent a Save-Our-Soul (SOS) to President Muhammadu Buhari, demanding the speedily reopening of the theatrical sector of the economy, including the film industry, to prevent “their imminent collapse.”
The association said the sector had lost over US$50million (about 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.
The operators under the aegis of Cinema Exhibitors Association of Nigeria (CEAN) made the appeal at a meeting held at the Lagos State Safety Commission (LSSC) Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos.
The association also revealed to journalists their post-COVID-19 plans and how they intend to conduct their businesses in line with established health protocols once the sector is re-opened.
Addressing the press ,CEAN chairman, Mr. Patrick Lee, lamented the financial losses suffered by the Nigerian film industry due to the continued suspension of cinema operations and the theatre as a result of the lockdown.
He said unless something drastic was done, the Nigerian film industry, which went into a free fall consequent upon the lockdown imposed on the country on March 30, faced possible extinction.
He said the industry, reputed to be the second-biggest film industry in the world (based on the number of films released),was, pre-COVID-19 pandemic, producing an average of 50 films weekly, accounting for over N200 billion in annual film industry revenue.
These, Lee said, 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, second only to the agricultural sector. Still, the industry, according to World Bank estimates, has the potential to produce one million more jobs.
The association drew a parallel between the government’s directives to re-open domestic flights from Wednesday, July 8 and submitted that a critical evaluation of operational processes would reveal similarities between airports and cinemas.
“A domestic flight from Lagos to Yola takes two hours, 30minutes, which is the same running time for all movies. Likewise, each customer is expected to spend a minimum of three to four hours for a domestic flight which consists of arrival at airport, ticket purchase, queuing, waiting, boarding, flying and exiting the aircraft; the same hours per customer processes can be likened to cinema visitor.