Sky’s the limit for Ghanaian cinema


Silverbird Entertainment Ghana Limited (SBEGL), a one-stop entertainment centre, won the CIMG (Chartered Institute of Marketing, Ghana) Emerging Brand of 2010 Award, presented on 3 September this year.

The SBEGL group was awarded for championing the local entertainment scene and revamping the cinema culture and industry from its decade long slumber.

Silverbird is also steadily establishing itself as a household name, thanks to the vision of Group founder Ben Murray-Bruce and Edward Boateng of Global Media Alliance (Silverbird’s parent company).

“The award is a remarkable achievement considering that Silverbird only opened its doors for business in Ghana in December 2008,’ says Boateng.

He and Murray-Bruce first met when Boateng was working for CNN and the latter was running Silverbird as an event company. They met up again in Lagos 10 years ago and wanted to make a difference in the media and entertainment industry in Africa and their respective countries (Ghana and Nigeria).

Boateng, who achieved unparalleled corporate success at Turner Broadcasting System where he headed the Africa division, started Global Media Alliance in South Africa. He and Murray-Bruce teamed up with South Africa’s Johnnic Communications to establish cinemas and lifestyle stores across Africa, but Johnnic pulled out after three years.

“Doing business in Africa is not for the faint-hearted. You must be tough, patient and resolute and have long term focus,’ says Boateng.

Mega cinema chain

Today Silverbird is the largest cinema chain in sub-Saharan Africa (excluding South Africa) with operations in seven states in Nigeria, Accra and Nairobi. There are plans to expand to Senegal, Ivory Coast and South Africa.

SEGL is in talks with potential commercial developers in the Ghanaian cities of Kumasi, Takoradi and Tamale to possibly establish similar one-stop entertainment centres.

Boateng credits the late Joseph Owusu-Akyaw for sticking to his dreams and building the Accra Mall. “Through Joseph’s vision we were able to realise our dreams. Because of him we have developers from several countries looking at establishing malls in Ghana.’

Big changes

Leading Ghanaian film director Shirley Frimpong-Manso commends Global Media Alliance and Silverbird for transforming Ghana’s movie scene. “Prior to Silverbird, there was no great outlet for movies. Perfect Picture was the first Ghanaian movie to screen at the plush Silverbird Cinema. This opened the way for other local movie producers and directors. We hope that Silverbird opens more cinemas around the country to further boost the industry.’

Ben Tei, a cinema manager for Silverbird, adds: “Silverbird is poised to revive the cinema industry in the country and we are walking the talk. The secret to our success is commitment.’

Industry challenges

Boateng laments the lack of attention and financial support for the creative industry in the country and in Africa as a whole.

“Our governments do not regard investment in the arts as meaningful because they do not see it as a revenue generating source. Yet the film and music industry is estimated to have generated over $1bn in Nigeria in 2010 and is set to generate close to $2bn in 2011. Ghana’s film, music and creative industries have the potential to generate more than $500m in revenue by 2016 if harnessed correctly,’ he states.

While acknowledging that the production quality of most of Ghanaian movies is poor, Boateng notes that producers lack the necessary resources and have only limited access to finance. “Financial institutions in the country are hopeless when it comes to financing the arts. They have very limited in-house capacity to evaluate film proposals and therefore shy away from them.

“However, Ghana could learn from the Nigerian film industry (Nollywood) and prosper. We have the talent but it needs to be nurtured and government has to set the right creative strategies. This would result in more revenue for the country – the film industry could even surpass Ghana’s earnings from natural resources such as cocoa over time. The problem is that no-one in our previous governments, except for Dr Kwame Nkrumah, has ever cared about the arts.’

African voices

SEGL offers an all-round entertainment centre comprising cinemas, lifestyle stores (which stock books, CDs and DVDs) and a game arcades located at Accra Mall. With modern facilities like Dolby digital surround sound and excellent seating capacities in five cinema halls, patrons enjoy the latest movies plus concessions and personalised services.

Since the introduction of the lifestyle store there has been a rise in the number of Ghanaian publications. Boateng is delighted with this trend: “We need to chronicle and write our own stories. He who writes today shapes the history of tomorrow. For far too long, Africans have allowed others to tell their stories for them.

“I read history up to second year university level and it was only when I arrived in the US to do my masters degree that I realised the falsity of information in our history books. Unfortunately, many people do not get the chance to rid themselves of false knowledge; therefore they lack confidence and trust in their abilities.

“For this reason I want to see more Ghanaian publications in the Silverbird Lifestyle Store. Again it is the duty of government to provide incentives for people to record their stories and experiences,’ concludes Boateng.

SCREENAFRICA Print Magazine – November 2011 (view here)
By Martin Chemhere


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