Made In Ibadan: The Filmhouse Cinema Success Story

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Prior to the emergence of Filmhouse Cinema in Ibadan, I used to travel all the way from Ibadan to Victoria Island in Lagos just to watch movies at Silverbird Galleria – not because I couldn’t get the movies; I’m just a big fan of the big screen. So I was really happy when I found out there is a cinema in Ibadan.

From Dugbe, Filmhouse also opened at Samonda. And when the Palms Mall opened, many residents of the city were asking IBPulse whether Filmhouse would be opening at the new mall. I knew they weren’t opening at Palms since I’ve been informed that the cinema at Palms is owned by the owners of the mall.

Anyways, back to Filmhouse…

As the first modern day cinema that took Ibadan people beyond the days when we were watching films at Odeon Cinemas, Cultural Center, and all hotels that were showing films, all eyes were on how the company will perform in the city. I also followed the company’s service delivery closely from the early days and from the point of view of a moviegoer.

Today however,  Filmhouse can boldly say it is in Ibadan for the long run. And speaking to Nnambdi Azike, General Manager of Filmhouse Cinema Samonda Ibadan, I realised the company is not yet ready to fold its hands and enjoy the money it is raking in – instead, it has lots of stuffs lined up to improve the movie landscape in Ibadan – and to provide more services for the Ibadan moviegoers that Nnambdi described as a ‘unique set’.

“Ibadan moviegoers are a unique set. Unlike in Lagos and Abuja where it is easier to spend money,” he said. “We showed Fast and Furious for a week or 2, at 1,000 per ticket and most of those shows were sold out. Does that mean Ibadan people don’t like to spend money?”

He noted that the cinema factored in the spending culture in Ibadan when it was coming up with its unique prices.

“Sometimes money is an issue, sometimes it isn’t,” he told IBPulse.

For Filmhouse, the focus is on building a cinema culture in Ibadan.And I think they are doing that already considering the fact that they are turning more Ibadan people into movie addicts while those of us that are already hooked will not be giving up our addiction any  time soon. They are not even ruling out the possibility of a third Filmhouse Cinema in Ibadan.

“I can’t rule that out. If need be that we need to serve Ibadan better, it’s something we can consider,” Azike said.

I remember when they started showing Fast and Furious 7. I had to wait for a week before I could finally see the movie. At a point, I was like Wetin Sef? But realizing the fact that the feat affirmed my position that Ibadan is ready for large enterprises, only brought smiles to my face. And I wasn’t surprised when Azike said so far this year, Fast and Furious 7 has been their highest grossing movie.

But Nollywood movies are not performing woefully either. According to the Filmhouse GM, Ibadan people will watch any good movie with a great script and popular actors – as long as it is not a horror movie.On the overall, Azike said FIlmhouse Samonda is growing year-on-year.

“We are not where we were last year, we are growing and we will continue to grow,” he said.

What’s Next?

When I go to see  movie, like everyone else in Ibadan (and Nigeria), all I’m interested in seeing is the story, the plot, the action and the end. If it’s a love story, I want the boy and girl to come together, have beautiful kids and live happily ever after. If it’s an action movie, I want the bad boys to lose and the good boys and girls should save the world and bring global piece. For comedy films, I want to laugh and fall off the chair.

When a film does all of these, I’m satisfied – even more if the popcorn is sweet  and the drink is cold.

Azike however believes that movies are more than this – especially if you compare it to what they have outside Nigeria – I’m not talking of Ghana  or Cape Verde – I’m talking of places like USA!

“The movie culture abroad is not as strong as it is outside the country. We are only movies fans by mouth. We want a situation where people embrace the movie merchandise. Going forward, we are trying to introduce this. We’ve already made several attempts and will be doing more of that in the future,” Azike told IBPulse.

They’ve also organised  two movie premieres – one for Gone Too Far, and  another for Tunde Kelani’s Dazzling Mirage. IBPulse covered both premieres. Azike said the cinema has ‘improved premiere as a premiere’. Going forward, he said Filmhouse will be bringing celebrities to the cinema and fans can watch films with the celebs for free.

I’m guessing this should happen this month (June) or next month (July). I probed further to know the names of stars the cinema is planning to bring to Ibadan. The names Azike mentioned include – The Mavin Crew, D’Banj, Yemi Alade, Falz, Ice Prince, Olamide…

“We might get you one of them and it will be totally for free,” he said.

Support from Oyo state government

In the build up to the last governorship elections, the Governor Abiola Ajimobi-led administration listed Filmhouse Cinemas as one of the companies it attracted to Ibadan. So I asked Azike how true this statement was. In response, he commended the state government for providing facilities and amenities that made its operations easier in Ibadan.

“The Oyo state government has done a fantastic job. If there were no good roads to the cinema, we won’t be here. From inception till now we’ve not had any issues with any Oyo state agencies,” he said.

He revealed that plans are underway to host the governor at the cinema.

“We are working on hosting the governor, hosting him and having his track record playing on our screen. He has created an enabling environment for us in Ibadan,” he said.

Azike is a typical Igbo boy – enterprising – in short, he’s business-minded. He called himself a Lagos guy who has had exposure to how things are done in the developed world. So I concluded the interview by asking for his initial reactions when he was told he would be moving to Ibadan.

“It came as a shocker having been an avid Lagos guy. You would want to see it as a setback,” he said.

However, he said he has grown to like Ibadan and would recommend the city for anyone who is currently living in Lagos.

“I’ve grown to like the city, it’s peaceful, easygoing, it’s a city that whoever lives in Lagos would love,” he told IBPulse.

Listen to the exclusive interview below. But before clicking play, you may have to scroll up and pause the radio button playing – that’s if you are reading this on your PC. Enjoy the chat.

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