Over the past two decades, Cameroonians have been bereft of movie theatres all over the country because the ones that used to be opened to the public have been closed. Till now, reasons that motivated such an action from the administrative authorities are still unknown. Meanwhile, as time passes, the 7th art is occupying a place of choice in the hearts of Cameroonians who are nowadays highly influenced by neighbour Nigeria with her film industry “Nollywood”. One can therefore assume that the fact that Cameroon lacks cinema is what encouraged French businessman Bolloré to invest in the construction of such in the country called “Canal Olympia” with already two halls inaugurated in Yaoundé in June 2016 and Douala in January 2017.
When asked on how enjoyable cinema halls were in those days, people’s answers almost look similar. “What I keep in memory about the days of cinema is the ambiance in the hall, when people clapped at the end of an interesting film and the communion between spectators”. Entrusted Ines Ngnidjie, a movie lover. For those who have never watched a film in a cinema, those testimonies may make them think that they’ve missed something great and of course it sounds logical that those days were enjoyable with famous halls like “Abbia” in Yaounde, “Le Wouri” in Douala and “Empire” in Bafoussam overnight closed.
While deeply examining the issue of the closure of cinema in our country, we realise that it remains a profound wound in Cameroonian’s hearts! Why? Only because cinema after all has its particularities, among which: it is a suitable place to chill out after a tiring week for both students and workers; it is a place where youths and why not adults can have romantic dates as they are tempted to go to bars where they are very closed to alcoholic drinks and strange behaving persons.
Apart from that, cinema theatres are also appropriate platforms to promote a nation’s cinematographic industry. Don’t be surprise because if those halls were still opened, it would have been a helping hand to the exhibition of Cameroon cinema works. It is becoming more and more difficult to list films produced by Cameroonians each year. After those movies are released, they are advertised on local TV and radio stations, but during a short period of time because the staff does not have enough financial resources to pursue a long-term advertising campaign, reason why projection rooms would have been very welcomed as the movies would be projected there and logically make the public aware of their availability.
However, to others, the absence of cinema is not an issue because there are TV channels which broadcast movies, so if they can watch films there; but what they forget is that watching a film on TV is not the same as watching it in a movie theatre, the ambiance and atmosphere are not the same and TV channels don’t air movies on the demand of the public. Also, the reputation of cinema has considerably dropped with the arrival of the internet and downloading platforms; with the internet it is now possible to watch a movie online like on You Tube and even to download it and keep it in a computer and watch later.
On the other hand, the lack of cinema in Cameroon has led to other activities that have been carried over the years. Among them is “video clubs” which is a business put in place by youths consisting in projecting movies using a Video Cassette Recorder (VCR) in a particular closed place at a very low cost for film lovers. The activity which is highly developed in rural areas, is solicited by young people who are not bothered to disburse 100 francs or 200 francs to watch a movie that have been scheduled for a session. Meanwhile, “video club” business is now challenged by the arrival of new information and communication technologies which of course has considerably caused its reputation to drop.
However, since June 2016, the French investor, Bolloré used that lapse to put smile of the faces of Cameroonians with two yet cinema theatres, “Canal Olympia” in the cities of Yaounde and Douala. One can now believe that movie fans will soon be able to catch up on what they have been missing so far.