My hopes are collapsing before my eyes, literally so. This past week, a section of the old Plaza Cinema on Camp Street caved in, and with it went my hopes for a revival of the local cinema industry.
There is another revival that is taking its place. It is foreign Christian revival that is sweeping the land, and old cinemas are being gobbled up and converted into churches.
Last year, as I was passing by the old Strand Cinema at Wellington and Charlotte Streets, I felt a burst of excitement surge through my body upon discovering that the building was being renovated. I said to myself that the cinema which was still in operation was preparing for a major comeback.
My heart however sank, when this newspaper informed the nation that in fact it was a church that was taking over the building and that instead of movies, what we would have are church services. The Strand it seems, has shown its last movie.
Long before that, the roof of the Globe Cinema had collapsed and the Metropole Cinema had been reduced to rubble in fire. Long before that, the Hollywood Cinema in Kitty had been transformed into a church; the Empire had been sold and is now a major store and Liberty was felled after being sold. The cinema in Albouystown is not drawing the crowds it used to. This left the city with only two cinemas, the Astor which is still showing movies to limited audiences and the Plaza, long locked up and non-functional.
This week a section of it caved in, no doubt because vandals had removed some of the beams that supported the structure. The building will now no doubt have to be torn down, just joining so many other cinemas that have gone out of business.
The local cinema industry took a hit when television made its advent into Guyana. And that was over twenty years ago. And its hope for a comeback were dampened because of the upsurge in the number of video stores that have sprung up, now no longer vending videos but DVD’s.
There is also a thriving DVD business taking place within the local economy. These are making a mockery of the marketing efforts of Hollywood and Bollywood, for no sooner is a movie released, it is pirated and copies available locally. The same is happening with music.
The lack of copyright protection is thus destroying the business aspects of two important entertainment industries. It is hampering the revival of the cinema and it is denying royalties to musicians. The local music industry is also going to suffer in this process.
Other than buying the boot-legged copies of DVDs which are now openly sold on the local market, this leaves only two options to movie lovers.
The first is to watch what is shown on television or to invest in cable. There are quite a few companies in Guyana which are now providing cable services and most are at an affordable rate.
But even then the cable companies do not offer the sort of variety which was once offered by the local cinemas, and they definitely cannot match the variety that can be sampled from local video stores.
These days, you can obtain virtually any movie that you wish to see from any of the major movie stores. You can also obtain X-rated movies.
And you need not go to a video store for this; it is being openly vended on our pavements, right under the noses of the authorities who do not see that the selling of these movies is offensive to public morals and thus unlawful. In fact, it is even said that quite a few lawmen actually make purchases of these movies which are sometimes shown even in barracks, unknown to senior officers.
While the X-rated movie is a problem for many parents because of the easy access that kids have to purchase this material, it should be acknowledged that the wide array of copied DVD movies has provided many Guyanese to be entertained within their homes rather than having to go outdoors to find such entertainment.
Most weekends, families stock up on movies and spend the weekend watching these movies. They do so in the safety of their homes and do not need to go out to find some social pleasure.
There will however come a time when the authorities will have to move to enforce copyright legislation. And the pressures will come from overseas.
Right now copyright legislation is not been enforced or impressed upon, because the Americans see the Guyanese movie market as very small, but eventually they will apply the pressure and then there will be serious problems, because from what is observed at the moment, we have a great many Guyanese who are making their living from these boot-legged videos, and a great many more who have become quite dependent on the entertainment value provided by pirated movies and music.
And as the cable industry increases, there will inevitably come pressures from this sector for the rigid enforcement of copyright laws.
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