I got introduced to cinema casually and in the most natural way. I was part of a group of campus undergrads who wanted an evening timeout that was a departure from their daily routine. Of all the attractions––and distractions––on campus, going to the movies was the most agreeable to all concerned that evening. And off we went to the 9 pm show, which was the second movie. We all arrived at the Social Centre from different outings: from KIL library, Charity and Faith church and romantic ‘waka waka.’ We had a good timeout. For those of us first-timers, it was something of a revelation, going to the cinema, as we soon found out, was a good way of offloading our worries whenever we were bogged down by the pressure of the academic cocoon that was the campus.
On the sprawling Samaru campus of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, cinema-going is part and parcel of the subculture. The New World Cinema at the Social Centre fed the habit. Stepping into the expansive hall, the ceiling-to-floor screen radiated an aura of novelty of sorts––a screen so big it was filled with graphic scenes, vivid colours and pop music interlude. So it was when I watched Jim Carey’s The Mask and The Gladiator at Arkivision, the second but short-lived cinema. What we relished most was not necessarily the much-vaunted trifles of popcorn and coke; rather it was the shared emotion – joy, laughter, anger, sadness, cries – and the bonding that resulted thereafter. Over time, it became a means of exorcising mundane worries when they became too burdensome. Of course, going to the movies has a way of becoming addictive.
Outside the ivory tower of the academia, the cinema used to be a vestige of the past––think of Pen Cinema in Agege (Lagos) or the Rex Cinema in Sabon Gari (Zaria). But since the new Millineum, the cinema culture has made a gradual comeback. In big cosmopolitan cities, such as Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt, cinema-going is popular and firmly ingrained in the leisure and entertainment matrix of the society.
Indeed, home entertainment blossomed in the past decades, feeding on the home video explosion brought about by Nollywood. On the other hand, however, the growth of as many as 10 major film houses (a revolution kickstarted in 2004 by the opening of the Silverbird Galleria which housed the franchise’s cinema) is a testament to the thriving big-screen culture.
In most cities, the cinema option is slim, just one or two film houses. In Lagos, the option is broad, ranging from major franchises, such as Ozone, Genesis, Silverbird and Filmhouse IMAX, to obscure neighbourhood cinematheque.
In bygone days when I was writing for an entertainment-focused newspaper, I had the privilege of attending premieres and private screening at the Silverbird Cinema. The glittery environment of the Silverbird Galleria, with its beautiful ceiling murals, adds glitters and electricity to the experience. If going to the cinema were to be a sort of religious act, the Silverbird Cinemas at the Galleria is like going to a cinema cathedral. You would love to add it to your been-to cinema portfolio.
I have also been to the Ozone Cinema at the E-Centre Mall in Sabo, Yaba. The day I watched Spiderman II, the audience was mostly young people, the tech generation that hangs out in Yaba.
Last month, I was at the new Genesis Cinema inside the Maryland Mall on Ikorodu Road. Located on the last floor, the mall environment gave it extra allure. There is an array of shops––lots of shops––offering a wide variety of commodities. There are groceries and gadgets outlets and there is a plethora of restaurants, the likes Barcelos, Chicken Republic, Ice Cream Factory and The Place among the lot. I saw a gaming centre, a playground for children and a sitting area where you can lounge until your movie time. All these put together means the cinema is family-oriented.
A cinema with four screens means a wider number of choices of movies to watch per show time, that is part of the bargain at the Genesis Cinema. Overall. It was a good place to hangouts. Not only do they show new releases, but the picture quality was also fantastic and the hall well air-conditioned. The halls were also well kept, clean.
I had also been to the Filmhouse Cinemas IMAX, Lekki, just once, but the impression lingers, because of its big screen––the biggest I have ever seen––and the 3D movie I watched. If you want to give your kids a really special treat at the cinema, take them to any of the Filmhouse Cinema IMAX to watch 2D or 3D cartoons. They would talk about it for years.
If you are just trying to cultivate the cinema habit, you have to know this: the cinema is like the beach. Try not to go to watch a movie on a public holiday, the film house could be so jam-packed you’d find yourself unable to buy a ticket.
The best time to have a wonderful cinema experience is during the week when there’s less crowd and the ticket is discounted. If you have time on your hand, you could watch movies back-to-back and spend the extra time window-shopping several stores and also grab lunch or early dinner.
At the Maryland Mall where the Genesis Cinema draws cinema buffs the way nectar draws bees to a flower, TIMEOUT sampled opinions of a cross-section of cinemagoers for the underlying motives for their habit.
The Olaseinde family––father, mother, twin daughters and a son––lived in the Maryland neighbourhood and observed the ritual of watching movies back-to-back on two Sundays of the month, after church.
“It’s a way of strengthening the family bond,” says Adeboye Olaseinde. His job at the bank means he hardly has time for the kids. Therefore, going to the movies affords him the opportunity to make up for the lost time. “We buy our tickets ahead and we come straight from the church to spend the rest of the day here at the Maryland Mall. We eat lunch, window-shop and watch two films. We occupy a row and we share the emotion that comes with the films; back at home, we continue the debate. That way, we are building a common pool of reference and strengthening the family tie,” he says.
His wife submits: “We all look forward to it, especially the twins.”
In the case of Kingsley Oguejiofor, the act of going to the cinema is a weekly love ritual, for him and his fiancée.
“She works in Ikeja and I on the Island, on Friday evening, we meet here, have light dinner and go watch a romantic movie, anything soft. We feel cool. Then I drive her home,” he says.
Other moviegoers, like Temilade Adekoya who frequents the film house alone, use the cinema to banish dark moods. “I come here alone twice a week. This is my escape from the stress of Lagos,” declares the young CEO of an Ikeja-based cosmetic company. “I watched good movies till late in the evening, then taxify home and go to bed happy.”
For her, cinema serves a therapeutic purpose: “I am not a very social person, no apology for that, so I am sort of awkward in social gatherings. But a friend introduced me to the cinema after I was heartbroken when I lost my boyfriend of six years to one of my girlfriends. It was heartbroken to the extent that I was suicidal. On my worst night in November 2018, a girlfriend brought me here and we watched a film, and for the first time in months, I was at peace with myself and I slept comfortably.”
Lukman Sodiq gave a different reason that bordered on variety and financial prudence: “I be jayejaye (hedonist). I have done the beach thing and I am tired, and I am not a foodie that derives satisfaction from hanging out in restaurants and bars every night; I need variety, but above all, if you are not wise, these girls will chop your pocket till you are penniless. So I come to the cinema twice a week––no frills, just popcorns and the films.”
Indeed, there is a reason for everyone to cultivate the cinema-going habit. To quote Sodiq, the self-acclaimed hedonist, going to the cinema jazz up the boring daily routine and in the words of Olaseinde, “going to the cinema is not a bourgeoisie habit, it is a social habit.”
More importantly, there is a health benefit to it. Whether the movie is a tearjerker, sidesplitting comedy or the adrenaline-pumping action variety, the catharsis (purification or purgation of the emotions) induced contributes to the individual’s wellbeing.