Thursday, June 13, 2024

Lotus (formerly Naaz ) Cinema, Mombasa closes down Dec 2001!!

 As Mombasa gets City Status in January 2002, (Lotus) Cinema, closes down!!

interesting history!
President Moi visits Mombasa in his last year, and gives Mombasa City status. Later in his trip he also visits Leisure Lodge for lunch on the north coast! (see Coastweek excerpts below)
Meanwhile the last movie to play at the beloved Naaz Cinema (renamed Lotus Cinema) is Kabhi Kushi Kabhie Gham which plays simultaneously with Kenya Cinema, that is before Mombasa patrons can get a pirated DVD for home viewing!
While you could get away with paying Ksh 120 for a seat in the stalls in Lotus or Kenya cinemas, you would have had to pay Ksh 250 to watch Harry Potter at the new Nyali Cinemax! (see Coastweek excerpts below).
Or you could have just sat home and watched a Bollywood classic on Zee TV (see below)!

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Monday, June 10, 2024

Kenya Film Corporation Mr. J K Mutua opens LOTUS (previously NAAZ) Cinema, Mombasa on Dec 30th 1983


Interesting history!
The popular NAAZ Cinema, Mombasa closed in early September 1983!! The September 1983 Coastweek advert (see the newspaper clipping at the bottom), describes the Naaz Cinema as being under renovation. 
Naaz Cinema was sold to a partnership that included the well known photographer Kamal Sabharwal, (see copy of Coastweek below). You may remember that in the 1970s Kamal was lost in Tsavo when a small plane crashed in the Tsavo National Park!
The cinema reopened at the end of 1983 as the LOTUS cinema! 
The timing of the purchase was somewhat terrible as by 1984 VHS started encroaching the box office numbers. The disappearance of Regal by the end of 1985 cushioned the declining attendance.
I dropped by to view an action movie one Saturday afternoon 3pm show in late 1987. There were lots of movie patrons in the balcony. The book keeper Suleiman was long gone. His replacement was Bashir who some may remember was one of the book keepers at the Regal Theatre!
By around 2001 or so LOTUS closed operations and the property was sold to Kenyatta College!!

Thursday, June 6, 2024

Prince Aly Khan drops by the Regal Theatre Mombasa 1940s

 The photo on the right shows Prince Aly Khan meeting with Shamshu Hussein one of the owners of Regal Theatre Mombasa. The photo was taken at the old Meru Rd entrance.

On this anniversary of D-Day June 6th 1944 it is interesting to note Prince Aly Khan participated in the Allied landing in the south of France with the United States Seventh Army, serving as a liaison officer with the rank of captain. For this, he was made an officer in the Legion of Honour in 1950. He was also awarded the Croix de Guerre and the United States Bronze Star Medal!!

Monday, May 27, 2024


Belle Vue Drive In Cinema, Nairobi

photo taken this month (by Fayzal Verjee)
This plot totaling 23 acres lies empty as there is a row over the estate!!

Thursday, May 23, 2024

William Miller Robertson and the connection to the Empire Cinema, Nairobi, Regal Theatre and Tivoli Cinema in Mombasa


In a previous post I covered William Miller Robertson who Ameer Janmohamed (in the book: The Regal Romance) claimed was the architect for Regal Theatre, Mombasa in the 1930s. He was initially involved with operating Regal before constructing the Port Reitz Hotel. The excerpt below indicates he was also involved with the Empire Cinema in Nairobi and the Tivoli in Mombasa!! Empire Theatre was located on Hardinge Street - now Kimathi Street. The Empire Theatre building was replaced with the IPS building. W.M. Robertson appears to have been a cinema pioneer in Kenya that we have not previously known about!!
Name: ROBERTSON, William Miller
Birth Date: 1882
First Date: 1917
Profession: Empire Theatre
Area: Nairobi
Book Reference: Red 31, Medals, Leader14, Red Book 1912, Gazette
General Information:
Medals - East African Ordnance Department - William M. Robertson, Serjeant ?
Leader14 - W.N. Robertson - Nairobi
Red Book 1912 - W.M. Robertson - Nairobi
Gazette 2/3/1921 - Dissolution of Partnership between William Miller Robertson and Alfred Edward Wevill practising under the style of Robertson anjd Wevill. Dissolved as from 1/1/1921
Gazette - 12/11/1929 - William M. Robertson - Theatre Liquor Licence - Tivoli Cinema, Corporation Road, Mombasa
see facebook posts:
Dec 15 2023: The Kenya Cinema, the Regal Cinema and the Port Reitz Hotel Mombasa
Dec 15 2023: Who built the Regal Theatre in Mombasa?

Monday, May 20, 2024

Mr Tito of Regal Theatre, Mombasa


Mr Tito of Regal Theatre, Mombasa

By 1979 the owner with the highest share of the Regal Theatre partnership at 20% was Mr Tito.
Mr Tito was the owner of Kitui General Store on Kilindini Road. Mr Tito had previously been a long-time employee who purchased the store from Mr Patel in the early 1970s when it was known as Patels General Store.
Mr Tito was a successful business man, who spoke perfect Hindustani! As a tenant in the Regal Chambers building on Kilindini Road close to the Tusks (see below), he had become close friends with the operating partners of Regal Theatre who also owned the Regal Chambers until the early 1970's.
When the Kenya Film Corporation demanded cinemas have an African partner Mr Tito was the obvious choice. Mr Tito remained a partner until the theatre was destroyed in a fire in 1985.

photos below: 
Mr Tito at Kitui General Store 
Regal Chambers on Kilindini Road near the tusks

Saturday, May 18, 2024

The Regal Theatre (Mombasa) Projectionists, Africanization and the connection to Kaluworks!!

 Being a projectionist in Mombasa, as elsewhere, was considered a coveted job in the days of celluloid 35mm film, and before the mass adoption of VHS and DVD. Projectionists were unionized with assured annual salary increases. At the Regal they put in around 25hrs of work per week! It was great if you liked watching movies, worked independently and took pride in an error free movie run. On the other hand, it could get tedious being stuck in one room for 3hrs especially in Mombasa's heat.

Such was the life of the 2 Asian projectionists at the Regal Theatre Mombasa during the 1970s. One was a senior person with the highest salary that was close to the manager's salary! Moshin was more than a projectionist. He had taught himself over the years to fix anything electrical and mechanical and kept the projectors in good working condition. He thrived in his day time position at Kaluworks. More on this below!!
The other projectionist was just that ...a projectionist. The projectionist's room became a miraa paradise for him as the years went by. He would always come to work with his package of miraa for the evening. Just as coffee perks one up, he was alert for work and ensured a smooth film run!!
There were some exceptions!
On one evening an electrical wire shorted in the area housing the reflector and carbon rods. There was a short flame out. In the projectionist’s haste to act he dumped sand into the projector, to the ire of the senior projectionist, who spent the next day painstakingly cleaning and removing the sand!
Then there was the night when a well-known Hollywood movie was playing and they missed playing reel 3. They only realized their error of showing 4 reels instead of 5 when they movie ended early!! They quietly went home!! No one realized or complained about the error! But patrons surely must have been confused about the story line!
The usual 5.45pm evening show went on during Ramadan with almost no Muslim patrons. The projectionists would climb the ladder steps to the roof ledge above the projectionist room (and casbah restaurant) to determine the time to break the fast. And after this time was determined they would have a feast of the best homemade Mombasa foods!!
In addition to the glass windows through which the film image could be projected there were 2 glass windows that could be opened for the projectionist to stick his head into the auditorium so that the sound could be adjusted. One day an irate patron on the balcony threw an apple aiming for the projectionist’s head. The annoyed projectionist discontinued sticking his head and relied on staff using a switch by the stalls doors that was connected to a bell in the projection’s room. One ring meant reduce the volume. Two rings meant increase the volume.
There used to be animated discussions on many movie scenes. I remember a discussion on the Ten Commandments and what Ramses meant (after he returned to Nefertiti following the partition of the Red Sea and in answer to her as to where Moses was) when he said ‘his God...his God’!!
The Kenya Film Corporation kept on nudging the theatre to train and hire African projectionists. 17 years after Uhuru 2 Africans were finally hired! Both were recommended by the existing projectionists who faced no loss in wages and in fact consequently had lighter duties! Of course, everything worked out well.
Expertise on how to repair the projector equipment was an issue. In the early 70’s a maverick projectionist in his attempts to learn how everything worked dismantled a rectifier but could not re-install it right! And the cinema was stuck with a projector that overheated and caused a crack to appear in a new reflector in a month or so!
There was a disconnect between management/owners and the projectionists. The former, as compared to the latter, did not see how beneficial it was to update the projectors with new parts including sprockets, reflectors etc. and how beneficial trained projectionists were. Additionally given the owners' perception of the political situation and Africanization, there was little incentive to maintain the equipment. They viewed the glass as half empty and were in a frenzy to ‘milk the cow without feeding the cow’!
Things appeared to be very different for the senior projectionist Moshin at his day time job at Kaluworks! There the Asian owned company viewed the glass as half full, ‘fed their cow and in fact wanted a herd of cows’!! Perhaps some of the aggressive Africanization policies had not touched them! Sometime in the late 70’s Moshin was shipped off to Hong Kong to spend a month learning how to install and repair new machinery on order. He came looking thinner, complaining that all he could tolerate was rice and noodles! He invited me for a tour of Kaluworks new factory premises close to Moi International Airport. In fact, it was almost on the flight path slightly off from the Mombasa Nairobi highway or thereabouts. Instead of importing aluminum sheets to manufacture pots and pans, this innovative company decided to import Aluminum ingots from Kitimat, BC, smelter them to manufacture the aluminum sheets locally! Kenya's industrialization was on the move! It is interesting to note this company that started in 1929 (Regal started in 1931) is thriving...see Home | Kaluworks Limited
As the senior projectionist Moshin progressed in his day time job at Kaluworks he reached a point where he quit from the Regal. One ignores the technical staff at their own peril! Months later Regal’s projectors broke down, could not be repaired until the staff begged Moshin to come and fix the projectors!
The projectionists religiously at the end of each night’s show pulled down the metal shutters over the windows facing into the auditorium. The objective was to avoid any damage to the projection room during any fire overnight. Well, as some may know, in September 1985 a ferocious fire destroyed the Regal but saved the projectionist room. After all that the Gaumont Kalee projectors that had operated solidly for 30 years were sold for a measly shs 10,000!!

Regal Theatre and Pandya House on Salim Road

This could be as early as the 1940s!! 

Drive In Cinema, Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania

 An aerial view of the Drive In Cinema in Dar-es-Salaam

Mombasa cinema owners meet the Mayor & Film Distributors (KFC & AAFD) July 1970


The Fantastic Four Mombasa cinema owners:

ie, owners of Regal, Naaz, Kenya and Drive In Cinemas have a light hearted moment with Mombasa Mayor Msanifu Kombo!!

From Right to Left:
Sultanali Husseini and Fatelli Valli Hasham (Regal Cinema);
Mitu Shah (sitting) (Naaz Cinema);
(standing) most likely official from Anglo American Film Distributors;
Raman Bhai Samji Kala (Kenya Cinema); 
unknown person in glasses;
Chiman Bhai Patel (Drive In Cinema); 
extreme left unknown person
In the late 1970s (when I was a teenager) I used to join them! Raman once joked how come there are 3 persons from Regal while only he alone represented Kenya Cinema!! Ha Ha!!

Saturday, April 27, 2024

Kenya Cinema, Nairobi

 some more photos!!


Nice photo of the Kenya Cinema lobby and bar on the second floor

In this photo a portion of the right hand side of Kenya Cinema can be seen on the left

Empire Cinema, Nairobi

 Interesting new photos of the auditorium and lobby!!

Sunday, April 21, 2024

The News Pictorial in Kenyan Cinemas 1960s/70s


Since Uhuru in 1963 and up to the mid 1970s cinemas in Kenya showed the News Pictorial. Some may remember this news program. It was presented in black and white and lasted around 10 minutes.

The News Pictorial covered 3-4 events of interest in commonwealth countries. Common events included the Queen visiting a commonwealth country. I clearly remember in one issue News Pictorial covered the building and opening of the new 680 Hotel on Kenyatta Avenue as it was a large, successfully completed, private company project in the quickly developing independent Kenya!
Another memorable issue was the coverage of 10th Anniversary celebrations on Jamhuri Day 1973 at Uhuru Park, Nairobi. Many heads of states including Emperor Haile Selassie and President Nimeiry were present. Film patrons reacted with excitement (as they usually did) when they saw President Idi Amin arrive. Our jaws dropped when we saw President Amin, the gentleman who upended the lives of thousands of Ugandan Ismailis a few months earlier in August 1972 sitting close to the Aga Khan on the main dais!! (see the British Pathe segment below including minutes 1.26 to 1.35)
At the Regal the News Pictorial was played during every show after the national anthem. Each week a staff member would walk over to the British Council in City House to pick up a brand-new copy of the News Pictorial. Cinemas in Mombasa would receive the News Pictorial at the same time as cinemas in Nairobi.
Beginning in 1968 the Regal would show only English movies and it was common to have both the News Pictorial and a cartoon or another short program before the trailers of upcoming films.
If you only watched Indian movies chances are that you never saw the News Pictorial as cinemas did not show this during Indian shows given the length of Indian films!!
The News Pictorial was great in that we got a glimpse of what was happening in some African countries and other commonwealth countries.
After 1975 the News Pictorial was replaced with the very interesting Kenya Newsreel. More on that later!!
see British Pathe on 10th Anniversary of Jamhuri Day in 1973 :
Below photo: 680 Hotel in Nairobi
bottom photo: British Council at City House - The weekly copy of the News Pictorial would be picked up from here!!

Lotus (formerly Naaz ) Cinema, Mombasa closes down Dec 2001!!

 As Mombasa gets City Status in January 2002, (Lotus) Cinema, closes down!! interesting history! President Moi visits Mombasa in his last ye...