Can the drive-in cinema experience save Nollywood’s movie going culture?


Over the weekend, two of the country’s biggest players in the Nollywood cineplex industry made some important announcements. They were setting up to experiment with Drive-in cinema as a way to keep cinema goers happy while honouring social distancing guidelines.

It is exciting to see the private distributors in Nollywood finally acknowledge that the Coronavirus isn’t going anywhere and start looking for ways to still offer premium service in spite of it. Drive-in cinema experiences will at least ensure that locally made films can still get the premiere experience, earn premium bang for buck before it has to fight for the attention of Nigerians with thousands of other titles on streaming services. It seems a good idea that could do with a lot of refining and an understanding of the market in which they intend to play.

Play cinemas has pegged its showing times between 3pm – 7pm, most likely to ensure patrons still have about an hour to return to their homes before the government sanctioned daily curfews come into effect. The reality is, even if these cinemas manage to sell out each screening, they will create vehicular traffic jams post screening that will put many people in violation of curfews and as such they must invest in ways to ensure that film goers can enter and exit the drive-in cinemas safely and swiftly.

Then there is of course, the elephant in the room. Even before the Coronavirus, one of the biggest challenges distribution companies had was attracting large crowds to view films in cinemas. Nigeria has the world’s poorest population, with nearly 80 million people living on one dollar a day, several times higher than the cheapest movie ticket. Having a vehicle to social distance in will become a requirement on drive-in cinemas, which means even many middle class families will not be able to participate in the movie going experience. Plus seeing a movie will require fuel for the trip back and forth, an expense many will consider a luxury in Corona times.

Drive-in cinemas might be a solution, but it is clearly one that must be rejigged to meet our peculiar demands.

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