Cinema owners must improve their premises to attract patrons
Stabroek News
December 13, 2001

Dear Editor,

One notes that the cinema owners and their representative, the Guyana Film Distributors and Exhibitors Association (GFDEA) are understandably upset that their business and their cinema houses have fallen on hard times and that former patrons of the "big screen" have been staying away in droves in recent years.

In fact, President of the Association Muntaz Ali, who owns and operates 12 cinemas countrywide, stated that he sensed problems in the industry since in the early 1990s when there were only two television stations (and some 50 cinemas operating). Money was being lost in this business since then, he disclosed.

The history of this dramatic decline in the cinema industry also would chronicle that cinema workers in the industry staged a dramatic two-day protest to highlight the plight of the industry and the imminent loss of their jobs.

The problem that was causing this downward trend in attendance and revenue of the industry was identified by the cinema owners as the failure to implement the copyright laws by the government and the laissez-faire attitude of the authorities which allows television stations to show movies which cinemas publicise as "coming soon".

The prognosis of those who have been complaining against the advent of the television technology and the freedom that this new departure allowed, was that "the local cinema industry could soon be dead" as a result of the latitude allowed the television sets to show what they, the cinemas, consider their sole ordained province.

How myopic, to my mind, is this view of the entertainment world? Is the advent of the television screen in our homes and the freedom to see the world at large and the entertainment that is available to all the world a touch of a button the real reason why cinema seats around the country are empty? I think not.

It is also to be noted that the administration under whose ageis the cinemas fall, the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, mounted a roundtable on the future of the local cinema industry; at which the usual mounting of high-sounding platitudinous effusions emanated; in what must be seen by the cognoscenti as regards burgeoning new technology as a most expensive exercise in futility and time-wasting.

One can't hold back the dawn. Is it not like saying that the advent of wireless communication via the telephone and the radio (and now film and television) was a bad move, since this set of forward-seeking inventions would mean putting "talking drums" and "smoke signals" and the primitive experts of same and the afficionados and lusty practitioners of these once-basic art-forms out of business?

One wonders who dreamed up this strange use of "experts" who themselves should have known better than to lend their credibility to this event which the Trinidadian neighbours of ours would aptly term a "big pappyshow".

As was the generally expressed obvious opinion, cinema, as it was, is no longer in vogue; and has not been for some time. Imaginative approaches have to be the pertinent "drawing-board" for those who own cinema property, not crying in their beards or their cups and whimpering.

"Cake shops" and "salt-goods-shops" have, over time, had to give way to supermarkets and malls - the result of forward-looking and human advance.

Cinema owners must wake up and appreciate that long gone are the days when little boys (as we once were) went skipping with anticipation along, the pennies and other coins jingling in our sometimes-hole-tied pockets, to scream with full self-participation eyes wide with wonder or shouting "heh, heh, tek dat, tek dat" as we enjoyed a 9 o'clock matinee" (girls were a rarity then, especially in "pit") or we hied grudgingly allowing sister or female cousin to tag along) to "one o'clock matinee", on holidays and Saturdays in those long bygone halcyon days of yore.

Long-gone also it seems are the exertions of money-raking-in cinema owners to upgrade their property and their houses of pure visual pleasure, as one suspended imagination and reality and happily steeped oneself in the two hours of sheer "eyeball" joy; taking it all in so as to regurgitate all in the telling and retelling to our mates as the less fortunate "gang" assembled to hear and review "the latest".

Even the then so-called (and pretty well-named) "fowl-dung" (a harsher word, of course, was used then) theatres particularly in the sought of town, Albouystown, Lombard Street and their environs - also had their fair share of fans.

What, however, have these now-lamenting cinema owners done over the years, long past now, to show respect for the patronage they once so richly took for granted?

Which cinemas have had the benefit of serious thought for the decent and wholesome accommodation of the patrons who once looked forward to a "night-out" or an afternoon's outing with one's now so-called "sweetie"?

One can but wince at the very exterior sight of most of these cinema houses now and indeed must hold one's breath as one enters, assailed by the stench of improperly sanitised "latrines".

For some time now, one daring to take a seat in the range of accommodation at any level - "pit" house or "balcony" - must be prepared to "run-jostle" with scampering and shrilly-vocal rats and mice, with "bed-bugs" that have lost their way and bitingly seek to draw attention to their ever-present existence and duly secrete themselves in one's garment.

Cinema owners have long seemed immune to these elements while, like Rip Van Winkle, they have now awakened to the dwindling of the once-hordes.

Let them wake up and smell the roses (rather than the disinfectant), find out what others of their ilk have been doing to weather the never-will-be-ceasing storm of ever-burgeoning new technology; and perhaps they can still attract to their "big screen" very many who I am sure still long for an outing, with a "sweetie" or with the family, to a place where they can relax and dream.

Yours faithfully,

Lorri Alexander