Actress, Genevieve Nnaji battles FilmOne, others over Lion Heart screening
Nollywood actress, Genevieve Nnaji has accused Nigerian cinemas of refusing to show her directorial debut Lion Heart.
In a long worded statement circulated on her behalf, the 39-year-old specifically mention FilmOne as one of the major distributors who shut the door against her.
She had earlier announced December 21, 2018 as the cinema premiere date of the film, which has been acquired by Netflix for release on January 4, 2019.
“It is sad to discover that the very people who pose as Nollywood supporters and promoters of their content are the very same people frustrating the efforts of filmmakers.
“FilmOne, one of the major film cinema distributors, has categorically refused to distribute Lionheart, primarily because they have no stake in it. They are currently invested in a couple of movies showing in the cinemas and want to protect their assets at all cost. Monopolizing the market this season is their strategy to recouping their investment.
“Silverbird agreed to exclusively exhibit Lionheart across their cinemas and that was good enough for me. Like I said, having you watch this movie was my primary objective, not making more money. I’m an artist who wants to display her work to the people the art was created for.
“But, as soon as the announcement was made on Friday about the release, the “powers that be” of distribution and marketing were not having it. They proceeded to arm-twist Silverbird cinemas to backing out of our agreement by threatening to boycott them in the future.
“It’s like 2004 all over again. When we were all banned from the industry. Except this is not 2004. This is 2018.
“It is clear to me that the interest of the consumers is not of utmost priority as advertised. These cinema chains are only here to make money off of struggling artists while protecting their investments in the films they are affiliated with.
“The major reason cinema chains globally do not produce their own movies is to avoid bias. Competing with the very people you are supposedly a distributor for is downright ridiculous and shameful, to say the least.
“It is not enough that they buy out their own tickets and manipulate the numbers and time slots to keep up this false imagery of making box-office hits. They prevent filmmakers from releasing their products to manipulate foot traffic as well. Thereby forcing consumers to watch only that which is available to them. Not what they actually want to see.”
In its defence, chairman of the Cinema Exhibitors Association of Nigeria (CEAN) Patrick Lee in a statement released on Wednesday stated that given the busy December period, it was difficult for her to work her way to the screens given the number of unreleased films and those currently running.
Parts of the statement read: “As cinema exhibitors we have processes that guide us when considering a movie for exhibition in the cinema.
“We expect the movie to come from a licenced distributor, we expect the movie to be given adequate run time in the cinemas before it is officially released on other platforms and also for our cinemas to be provided with adequate notice for the inclusion of the movie in an increasingly crowded calendar. It is clear from the approach taken by the Lionheart team that these processes were not adhered to and most of our members rightly refused to take the movie.
“It is also important to note that this movie had been signed up by Netflix months ago, thereby giving Genevieve’s team ample time to secure a spot on the calendar, an option they did not take until quite recently thereby ensuring the possibility of the movie not being shown by cinemas during their preferred date.
“Genevieve has starred and produced movies for cinema exhibition in the past so should be familiar with the way the industry works which is why this is a cause for concern for us in the cinema association.
“Finally it’s worth pointing out that other movies such as Chief Daddy, KOB and Merry men had all been slated from early March this year. Mo Abudu, AY and Kemi Adetiba who are industry compatriots of Genevieve’s followed the right approach by scheduling early for cinema release, it’s not fair that they may now possibly have their screen times reduced because of the rushed inclusion of Lionheart in the cinemas.
“We at the cinema association are also not pleased about the attacks in the statement on some of our members and the sweeping generalisations the statement makes and expect to seek further clarification from its author before determining if further action needs to be taken.”
For now, independent distribution company Blue Pictures, which specialises in distributing foreign films in Nigeria, has secured special distribution for Lion Heart at Silverbird Cinemas.
The film will begin screening at Silverbird on Friday as earlier announced but may not make it to cinemas like FilmOne and Genesis.