Newspaper column highlights Malawi lack of cinema hall and ‘Wakanda’ lifestyle

An influential newspaper column published on Saturday  notes the  clip trending on social media in which an NTV journalist makes an observation that in 2018 Malawi doesn’t have a single movie theatre where people could join the ‘Wakanda forever’ craze and watch the movie Black Panther on big screen and join.

Women of Wakanda in Black Panther movie: Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), left, and Shuri (Letitia Wright)

Back in the days, Malawi used to have movie theatres; Apollo Cinema in Blantyre, Five Star Drive-in Cinema at Moneymen and Drive-in Cinema in Lilongwe where lovers of the big screen used to spend their weekends with their families and loved ones.

After a long break, Cine City Cinema was opened in Blantyre, but it did not last long as it closed down following technological challenges. The owners needed US$ 300 000 to upgrade from analogue to digital.

However, the column Backbencher published in Weekend Nation,  highlited that in Malawiset of priorities, there could be a litany of goods and services that are more urgent than a cinema hall—a cancer hospital, girls’ hostels, markets for our legumes, irrigation farming, good roads, more competitive transport mode to the ports, etc.

Still,  Backbencher  wrote,  the lack of cinema is a pointer to “a step in retrogression”.

“We are deprived in the 21st Century of the small luxury we used to take for granted way back in the 20th Century,” wrote the columnist.

The columnist said during his childhood days in Zomba in the ‘70s, movie lovers could trek to Luangwa  [Catholic Parish Hall] or Police to watch Charlie Chaplin or cowboy movies.

“Don’t say the advent of TV has rendered the big screen superfluous. Anywhere else in the Sadc region the TV and the big screen co-exist and are both growing. In Malawi, the death of cinema serves as proof that the country’s middle class is too poor to pay for such luxury,” reads the column.

Malawi has a rich cinema culture, but  according to the columnist, the numbers of those who can afford spending on movies is too small to sustain even a single movie theatre.

“Surprised? That’s how de-humanising abject poverty can be. We are rated the world’s poorest country by gross domestic product (GDP) per capita—an unenviable status we have assumed largely due to mediocre leadership and rampant corruption of the multi-party political dispensation,” reads the column.

“Our hand-to-mouth lifestyle has led to the shrinking of the domestic market particularly for services. People can’t afford to eat out. People can’t afford to watch movies at the cinema. People can’t afford new designer clothes. People can’t afford visiting holiday resorts.

“After government squeezes 30 to 35 percent taxes from their miserable salaries the real value of which diminishes whenever the kwacha depreciates, the little they are left with is spent on necessities—food, water, electricity, housing, clothes, medication and education for their children,” it reads.

In the column, Backbecher  pointed out that Malawi is losing its capacity to generate wealth and create jobs, but “politics appears to have the enhanced libido to sire more money and power, especially for the governing party.”

But to movie theatrers, some commentators arguethat Malawians perceive going to the cinema as a past-time of the elite.

People feel at home when they watch movies that resonate with their social set up.

They argue that unless Malawians start producing more movies, the cinema industry will stagnate.

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4 years ago

Cinemas are old fashioned entertainment. Nowadays you can watch a movie on your cellphone. After all watching films is unproductive. How can anybody watch a Nigerian film for 4 hours. Do people have nothing to do?
Nayenso wa ku Zambia should concentrate on cholera in his country which is caused by too much umve which we as Malawians are better off than him

Mtondoli Jonazi
4 years ago
Reply to  Serious

The big screen is about the movie watching experience. You indeed can watch a movie on your phone, but it does not compare to sitting in a movie theatre. It is more about a relaxing atmosphere after a long week or whenever one feels like. Combine the shopping experience say @ Gateway Mall with the a relaxing movie atmosphere. That’s what it is basically all about. For example here in South Africa you get Ster Kinekor Cinema Prestige (amongst others) where you can actually relax and someone will bring you snacks and drinks. You also get to watch latest movies… Read more »

4 years ago

We get what we deserve. We have mediocre political leaders because mediocre people voted them in. We also need to take responsibility for the mess the country is in. We should never pretend to be victims of our circumstances when we are in full control of our political destiny. If we keep voting in the same leadership as we did in 2014, 2009, 2004, 1999 and 1994 then will change. We need to be smart in the way we choose and vote for political leaders. Never ever should we be attempted to recycle those who have failed before. they will… Read more »

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