The intertwined fate of local films and private cinemas

Panorama Cinema (Photo: The Reporter)
Panorama Cinema (Photo: The Reporter)

By Ashenafi Gizaw

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – It was disappointing to be among only a handful of audience members for a Saturday afternoon movie showing at Sina Cinema in the Bethel Hospital area, one of the recently founded and booming neighborhoods in Addis Ababa.

Sina opened in July of this year, and with 170 seats, is the latest addition to about a dozen private cinemas set up over the past few years following the popularity of locally made films.

The first Ethiopian feature film was made more than fifty years ago and only a few more were made until the production of locally made films took off about a decade ago when filmmaking became easier with the introduction of digital video formatting. At the moment, a movie or two premiered on a fortnightly basis. Although some are reluctant to label all of them as movies – arguing that they lack some basic attributes – watching them has become more popular than going to theaters and foreign films.

The six public cinemas and theaters in Addis Ababa have staged plays and screened American and Indian films for decades. Now, all of them also screen locally-made films.  It is interesting to note that all of these public theaters were set up a while ago, when the population of Addis Ababa was barely one million. Now with the population increasing by more than threefold no more theaters are added.

Read more at The Reporter