Posts

Regal Theatre, Mombasa during World War II

Image
As most people know, Mombasa was relatively untouched by WWII. The most extreme case appears to be sirens going off in Mombasa at times, and on one particular day 2 Italian fighter planes flew over Mombasa without much fireworks! Malindi though was bombed!! Ameer Janmohamed provides the following description in  A Regal Romance  (pg 44): The Regal Theatre operated during the War, often to a a larger audience as the British Royal Navy used Mombasa heavily during it's war efforts. Both theatre shows and movies played at the Regal.   Ameer Janmohamed provided the following description in the book, the Regal Romance (pg 27) :                Additionally, as explained by Ameer Janmohamed a free open air cinema near the tusks on Kilindini road was operated for the British armed forces.  I came across a biography of one Navy sailor (Ray Jimmie James) who acted in a stage play of  Alladin  at the Regal theatre in 1944. Here is his interesting description:  The other big musical event in wh

A short history of the Odeon Cinema in Nairobi, Kenya

Image
Photo: Odeon Cinema Latema Road 1956.   Did you ever hear ODEON is the acronym for " O scar D eutch E ntertains O ur N ation". Wikipedia indicates, ' Odeon Cinemas was created in 1928 by  Oscar Deutsch . Odeon publicists liked to claim that the name of the cinemas was derived from his motto, " O scar  D eutsch  E ntertains  O ur  N ation",  but it had been used for cinemas in France and Italy in the 1920s, and the word is actually  Ancient Greek  ᾨδεῖον, Ōideion, meaning "a place for singing" '.   Odeon Cinema opened in the 1950s.  After the Odeon was built, Mr. Dahyabhal K Patel obtained the lease and the Odeon franchise. A the time Odeon Cinemas was a large international company. Mr Patel also opened an Odeon in Nakuru. The Business Daily reports that before the cinemas picked up the Mau Mau conflict started. Additionally there was competition from other Nairobi cinemas showing Indian movies. These included Shan, Liberty, Embassy and Globe cinema

Cinemas in Kenya and the Entertainment Tax

Image
                                                                    The sample tickets from the Metropole Cinema (above) and Shan Cinema (below) provide the statement 'Including Tax'. This refers to the entertainment tax. Cinemas in Kenya were subject to an Entertainment Tax of 10%  in the 1970's and 1980's. It is interesting to note that the government implemented a complicated system to ensure it received the tax. The system was not as simple as just reporting 'sales x 10%' as in many VAT jurisdictions today.  Cinemas had to print their tickets way in advance, and then store the tickets at the local tax office. I had the opportunity to accompany a couple of staff members from the Regal Cinema, Mombasa. We made  the trip to the local tax office to pick up ticket booklets when the current stock of tickets booklets in the cinema office was running low.  Such trips were made monthly or more often when cinema attendance spiked due to popular movies being screened.

The day in 1986 when 20th Century Fox sold its Cinemas in Nairobi

Image
Fox Theatres (E.A.) Ltd owned the 3 big cinemas in Nairobi. We have all been to them! These were the magnificent Kenya Cinema, 20 th Century Cinema and Thika Fox Drive-In. Kenyans were entertained to the latest Hollywood movies in world class cinemas for more than 35 years!!    Well, all good things come to an end. Internationally 20 th Century Fox changed hands in 1985. Rupert Murdoch had purchased the company from Marvin Davis for around US $430 million!    A decision was made to sell Fox Theatres (E.A.) Ltd. The business including the properties were valued around Shs 32 million. An offer was accepted at Shs 29 million in 1986. At the time this was roughly equal to US $1.8 million representing less than 1% of 20 th Century Fox’s assets. But for Kenya the sale was a big deal.    The deal did not sit well with some members of parliament. In parliament they chastised the government for allowing scarce foreign currency generated from exports of coffee to pay the seller 20 th Centur

Cinemas in Kenya and its role in enriching the Indian culture and vice versa Contributory article by: Ojwang Plante Okula, Bachelors (Education Arts) History, Moi University

Image
The Indian population had grown in most parts of the country by the 1930s. This was especially the case in towns like Kisumu, Nairobi and Mombasa. The Indian community had a huge role in shaping up the cinema industry across East Africa right from Mombasa to the streets of the Clove Island (Zanzibar). There were many reasons for this. Indian movies provided an escape from the day to day working life. The movies were entertaining as the movies provided lots of dance scenes. The key heartthrob actors lip synched the latest songs by popular singers. The movies held everyone’s attention whether it was a comedy, action or a sad story. The popularity of Indian movies from the 1930s onwards can also be understood given this was the era of no Television, VHS or DVDs. The only other form of entertainment were live Indian shows. The Indian movies also provided avenues for getting up-to-date with the latest fashion and trends as men and women tried emulating fashion trends from their stars in the

The day in 1931 when Regal Theatre, Mombasa screened the first Indian movie with sound ALAM ARA and the story behind it...!!

Image
The day in 1931 when Regal Theatre, Mombasa screened the first Indian movie with sound ALAM ARA and the story behind it...!! (from the book: Jambo, Samji Kala!, The Life and Times of Mohanlal Kala Savani) The Regal Theatre opened in Mombasa in 1931. It was built and operated by 2 brothers Valli Hasham and Janmohamed Hasham. Regal showed English movies and at other times rented the space for live plays and performances. The clientele was mainly British expatriates. In the same year, India produced the first 'talkie'  Alam Ara . It starred Master Vithal and Zubeida. Mohanlal Samji Kala acquired the distribution rights and imported this movie. This was before he constructed the Majestic and Kenya cinemas in Mombasa. He therefore rented showtimes at the newly opened Regal Cinema to exhibit the movie. The rest is history...... Interestingly no print of  Alam Ara  exists today. Unfortunately, the last print of this movie was reportedly destroyed in a fire at the National Archives of

THE DAY 20TH CENTURY FOX CLOSED ITS 3 NAIROBI CINEMAS

Image
The day 20th Century Fox closed its 3 Nairobi cinemas in protest against the Kenya government's policies of (1) Africanization and (2) economic boycott of (apartheid) South Africa!! In 1967 the state-owned  Kenya Film Corporation  was given sole rights to distribute all movies in Kenya. However  Anglo-American Film Distributors  that was owned by 20th Century Fox and some  South African shareholders , refused to give up distribution rights to movies produced by United Artists, and 20th Century Fox amongst other Hollywood studios. The Kenya government in response stopped them from importing these movies. In protest 20th Century Fox closed the Kenya, 20th Century and Fox Drive In cinemas for  months!!  These cinemas also refused to screen movies distributed by KFC!! Additionally, the  Motion Picture Exporting Association of America  (MPEAA) which controlled over 80% of the global cinema business, would hear none of giving up control to KFC. In a Feb 1968 meeting in Nairobi a vice pre

Avalon Cinema, Dar-es-Salaam

Image
  AVALON CINEMA Dar es Salaam from AFRICA'S WINDS OF CHANGE by Al Noor Kassam At that time, Dar es Salaam had only two cinemas and, because the tickets were expensive, the audiences were usually the well-to-do. My brother Hassanali was fascinated by films and he and some business partners formed an enterprise called  Indo-African Theatres Ltd.  They had cinemas in Nairobi and Zanzibar. The partners were Harbanslal, a Punjabi from Nairobi; a Parsee named Talati from Zanzibar, who imported films from India; and Thawer, an Ismaili from Zanzibar. They also gave me some shares in the company. They suggested to my father that he build a cinema which they would then lease from him. Our family owned a godown that was leased by an Arab businessman named Yahya Mohammed, which was ideal for conversion into a cinema. After the businessman vacated the premises, I supervised the conversion of the building into the  Avalon cinema , which was opened in 1944 by the Mayor of Dar es Salaam, Tom Tyrel