The Death of Cinema in Kenya; The signs were there all along

here is an  article on today’s Daily Nation on the death of movie Theatres in Kenya by Nyambega Gisesa. The article, though informative, has failed to delve deeper into what has caused the demise of Cinema in Kenya, something that is also the case in other countries.

Although he has mentioned Piracy and increase of TV sets in households, I felt that his article failed to clearly make one understand why most Kenyans now prefer pirating that movie despite the allure of a movie Theatre which he aptly put, has always been the perfect ingredient for a successful dating experience.

He also failed to consider many other factors.

Rising Cost of Living
I would attribute this as one of the main causes of the Cinema’s demise.
With the price of bread at Ksh. 40, Maize meal at almost Ksh.100, most consumables have become a luxury. Thus we cannot even start to discuss entertainment as many Kenyans are surviving nowadays, not living.

So, for Silverbird to charge over 1,200 for a movie it means only a certain class of people can afford this luxury. The same class of people can afford a home Theatre system with similar surround system, HD, heck, they can even pause and rewind a movie unlike in the theatres where you had to hold  in the urge to go to the bathroom or for a smoke till there was a break.

So what does a Kenyan do in a country where everything is coming  both in original and oringinol

Fibre Cables & Generosity
The coming in of the 3 fibre cables into Kenya has opened the country up not just to many opportunities, easier and cheaper interconnection to the rest of the world but it also came with among other things, the capacity to download anything and everything in the shortest time possible.

Many who work with multinationals, NGOs, Corporates, ISPs and other organizations that have subscribed to  huge bandwidth have discovered sites like torrentz, rapidshare and download softwares like Vuze, UTorrent, Bit Torrent which enable fast sharing of files ranging from E-books, audio books, music, games, software and ultimately, videos.

What makes downloading so popular is the ability to get movies that have not appeared in the ‘local box office'( I have always wondered what this term means!, this and ‘Block Buster’ which I think are the cliches that have defied age locally). There have even been instances of movies being shared online even before the acting is done, a good example was the movie X-Men (OK, I was unfortunate to watch that copy too)

Kenyans are Generous people especially with Music and movies and there is nothing wrong with that. We look for friends who work in the above mentioned orgs especially ISPs for that constant supply of the latest movie or series shows.

Where do I start. Yaani, Chinaman  has literary invaded this country if not Africa. He is actually the new black.
From the construction of  highways to infrastructure building in most African Countries to generosity in funding various projects, the Chinaman’s products have made an invasion in equal measure.

Nowadays when buying something I have to ask, hii ni ya china ama in genuine? This is especially the case with electronics. Yesterday as I was going home, I overheard one presenter ask listeners to call in and tell which phone brand was a fake; Samsung or Samsang?

Needless to say, most  of the Chinaman’s items are much cheaper than the originals.

Due to the high cost of living, one would rather buy that DVD going for Ksh 50 than go watch it at the cinemas or even buy the original. This is regardless of the fact that most of these DVDs will either be in Chinese with English Subtitles or  scratched or will be camera copies.

CyberCafe Factor
After the proliferation of internet access tools(Cellphones, smartphones, laptops ec) and Telcos going into Internet Service Provision, CyberCafe’s have found themselves at the brink of the same demise that has befallen the Cinemas.
They therefore needed to think fast.
I have a favorite cybercafe located on Kaunda St. that only charges me the cost of a DVD to burn the latest movies which they have accumulated.
Selling downloaded movies and helping those aspiring to seek greener pastures fill green card forms are some of the things keeping cyber cafes alive.

Kenyan TV Stations showing Archaic Movies & Taking viewers for a ride


I remember seeing a tweet by one TV station recently, announcing that they would be showing CSI Miami and NCIS. This was after the same TV station unceremoniously discontinued the same two series shows without as much as an apology to their viewers.
I got so pissed off that I looked for the complete series shows( I won’t go into details of how, but its one of the ways discussed above)
I bet I am not the only one who felt like I used to when I was a kid; going to the neighbours, smell the  aroma of chapatis cooking but no signs of getting any. Gosh, I would go borrowing everything from salt, to an axe to a knife,……..hiyo story iishie hapo. And yes, nimelelewa Gishagi, hapa tu Kafete). Now where was I?

This abrupt discontinuing of a series has contributed Kenya’s feeling bad after ‘Kuonjeshwa’ that they seek other means of  watching that series.

These are almost non existence in some TV station which have gone full blown on Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, Philippines, Nigerian, Iraqi, Indian Soaps(is there any country I didn’t mention). The others would rather show TCM movies while others repeat the same movies so often, you know the damn script!
And you blame Kenya’s for Piracy?

This is only appealing for live game matches or documentaries. By the time they show a series or a movie, most will have watched it.
Again, its not everything who can afford it.

So as you will agree with me, there is no way Cinema was going to beat all the above odds. Just like Vinyl records gave way to CDs, floppy disks to Flash disks, maybe its time that we accept that time has come for Cinema halls to give way to Home Theatre systems and digital entertainment.

… now, let me see the download progress on House MD, Deleted Scenes……*Runs and hides*

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Kenyan Poet Logo

Telling our stories, shaping our narratives

Kenyan Poet