Countless cosy cinemas with fancy names like Rex, Roxy, Rivoli and Globe japanned the face of Accra some twenty years ago. They were all built like the saloons in the wild-west movies, only with wider doors and cement walls in cream or green or yellow.
The doors swung open to yield a yawning yard of hard, concrete floor inch-packed with collapsible metal chairs. The far-end wall, behind a seemingly purposeless dais, held a wide wooden white board – crude screen for the cine projector.
Outside, the brightly coloured posters of the stars of the day were Blu-tacked on the weather-beaten display boards. Mean machines like Stallone and Schwarzenegger muscled for meagre space with kung-fu magicians like Chang and Chang (aren’t they all Chang? :-) and Lee. Thin-air-clad video vixens appealed with sultry smile or supple skin that electrified the evening air, and seduced many a homecoming mind into a money-spilling voyeur.
The ancient cinema of Accra was big, big business. On non-video nights, the chairs were neatly stacked in the mouldy crannies of the room, and the open floor, lacquered in bright lights, became a steamy dance floor. The open-top design flung the reckless music into the resting night, attracting the teeming horde into the cinema.
Church flock, churchlike folds and associations held meetings in the cinemas with the more-equal animals haunting the dais (utility after all). It was a shamelessly sensual scene to see convention goer glide grim-faced past the scandal-selling seductress on the devil’s display board.
Suddenly, the cinemas disappeared. The bounty of the market was lost to home videos; churches and shops took over. But I’m told the Accra Mall will open a cinema shortly, and glossy posters of sinfully sexy houris will appear once again, and richly defile every bare wall in the city of Accra ;)