Kene Mparu is the managing director of Genesis Deluxe Cinema and has been in the world of cinemas for about 20 years. In this interview with FUNMI SALOME JOHNSON, he speaks on his
impression on the state of things in the entertainment world in Nigeria and the role the cinemas will play in building a better movie industry among other issues. Excerpts:
How would you describe your experience as the managing director of the cinema in the last one year of its existence?
I have no regrets at all. It has got its challenges but honestly, I don’t have any regret.You know that whenever you are setting up a new company, challenges usually come, but we were not deterred. Our target is to let people know the peculiarity of what we offer which is entirely different from all others and I guess we have achieved that. So, everything has been good, business and all, except for some challenges like the Lekki road that was closed and has therefore become a problem to the people. Because of this, people are having difficulty getting to the palms, but there are solutions in place, so I am happy.
What has the patronage been like?
It is very good. Very soon, we will become the biggest cinemas in Nigeria. The creation of cinemas in Nigeria has made a positive impact in Nigeria, Africa and in the world as a whole.We have opened a site in Port Harcourt late last year and we are set for a few others before the end of this year.
What about Ikeja, when are you opening a new site in that area, because it seems all the reliable cinemas we have now are situated on the island?
We are working presently on one. The only thing I can say is for everyone to watch out for us because it going to be very big and massive.
How would you rate the entertainment industry in Nigeria especially when compared with you r experience in the UK?
I think the entertainment industry in Nigeria has got a potential. We are not doing badly here, but there are still more ground to cover especially when compared with the people on the other side. For example, you want to do a musical show at the stadium but the stadium is sold out, this could discourage the artistes overseas from coming here to perform and this kind of performance will boost the industry and also start the change we are looking for because music sets the pace in Nigeria. Comedy is also huge in Nigeria, put up a comedy show anywhere in Nigeria and you will see the different kinds of people that will attend that show just for one night. Cinema is trying to catch up with them now, there are other types of industries that want to catch up with them now and cinema is helping those industries. We all know the problem of home videos in Nigeria and cinema has come to put some things in order that is why I always carry the entertainment industry along so as to get to where the Music industry is now.
Do you feature Nigerian movies in this cinema?
Yes we do. For some time now, we have been featuring Nigerian movies, some of these are Through the glass, a Stephanie Okereke movie, Figurine and some other very good ones. We are also having discussions with some other companies to showcase their movies in the cinema. However, we will not show any film simply because it’s a Nigerian film, but because it has met the standard we set for a movie that can be shown in a cinema. We can not afford insults from people due to the low standard of the movie brought to the cinema.People love to be entertained at the cinemas.We turn down a lot of Nigerian movies here. This is because many are not good enough. And once the audience are disappointed, it will be bad market for us. We just have to be careful. We cannot just say that because a popular actor is in a movie, we must then show it by all means, no!, we just overlook that and pick the best movies for our audience to watch and be happy. We don’t just accept any movie people bring to us, we are known for quality. But when it comes to promoting Nollywood, we are the most passionate but that does not mean that anything that comes in, we will show; we stand for quality. In addition, we stand against mediocrity, so anything that falls under this, will never be favoured by us. On the whole, I think Nigerians are doing good when it comes to quality movies.
What is your relationship with producers and movie makers in Nigeria and how supportive have you been to them?
Not too close and that is what I advise them to start doing, I’ve worked in cinemas for about 20 years now and I can say authoritatively, what people come to see in movies. Alot of people will say there is money in cinemas but they fail to get the secret which is, the interest of the customers that we guide and protect. It is the customers that help us make the money through the good and qualitative movies we serve them at the cinemas. So, we can’t afford to joke with them, they pay good money for it. We see them when they come, we hear what they say about the movies they have watched, and that helps us to control the box office. It is the movies that they love most, that comes up first in the box office and that is how you know which movie makes sense, entertain and so on. It is with this that we can advise the film makers to put their films in order, using the standard that the customers have set, by their level of likeness of a particular movie We can tell them to do their films this way or put some particular kind of actors in their movies and so on. This, at the end of the day, will help them to have a good turn-out of their efforts at the end of the day.
I have approached a few personnel in the industry on this issue in the past, but it really has not gell. You know, the idea is to have a kind of forum that will bring people around to come and talk about the kind of movies they prefer and get them work on such. It is not only going to be for the film makers alone but for the exhibitors too. When they come and rub ideas with those that watch these movies, there will definitely be a perfect balance in the industry. You know we look at foreign movies with an eye of perfection, but they are really not perfect. They are successful in what they dobecause they create a balance between the film makers and the film watchers. We can also do the same here, find out what makes them succeed and put it into practice. But you know in Nigeria, everybody wants to do their own thing nobody wants to engage people in what he or she is doing for different reasons and that is what is killing the industry. It will not help. We need each other in every way we can, so that things can move forward.
When did you graduate from school?
I graduated from school in 1988. I did my youth service immediately after and started a post graduate course. I got a part time job in the cinemas and that was where I started. When I finished, I now got a job in cinema management, I liked it and I stayed.
How do you cope with your family with this kind of job?
The job is hectic, but I get around it. Sometimes, I bring the kids to the cinemas just to find a way of spending some time with them.That way, they get to see me and spend some time with me around the cinemas. At another time, I stay till evening so as to make sure things are going well. We are here to entertain people and we need to do a good job so we need all hands on deck to give everybody the satisfaction that they want.
How about the security aspect of the job?
We thank God for his protection. We are doing our best to make sure that people are secure when they come to the cinema, we thank God for everything.