Mr. President, on behalf of most, if not all creative artists, movie producers, actors, theater producers, and all the professionals in the cinema and theatre business, I bring you warm greetings. I hope you are doing well.
Mr. President, it’s been over a year since you instructed that cinemas and theatres be closed down in Ghana due to the COVID-19 pandemic which we believe was very necessary at the time and was a step in the right direction to curtail the spread of the virus.
Today, we dread the impact of the closures that has resulted in untold hardships on industry players as well as patrons.
Life has become very difficult and frustrating for most of us in the creative arts industry. I am talking about those of us who have committed ourselves fully and solely rely on our skills as creative artists and professionals to make a living.
Mr President, the situation has led to the collapse of many production houses as well as the laying off of some permanent and auxiliary staff of cinemas.
Theatre producers have also been rendered jobless, a development which could have dire consequences on the creative arts industry of Ghana.
It is also worth mentioning that, the state is losing out on the 17.5% VAT we pay on every single ticket sold out at our premiers and shows. Permit me to do a simple arithmetic on how much the state is losing due to the closure of cinemas and Theatres.
On the average, over 3,500 patrons visit the cinemas every weekend in Accra and Kumasi whiles the theatre records between 1,500 to 2,500 patrons whenever there is a play at the National Theatre in Accra.
Prior to the lock down, an average ticket for a movie premiere and a theatre show was GHC 50 and GHC 60 respectively with a 17.5% tax component on every single ticket, which culminates into GHC 8.75 and GHC 10.5 respectively for the government.
As a concerned and worried citizen, I know these revenues are needed for the development of our beloved country, hence, must be harnessed accordingly.
Mr President, my main concern is to suggest to you how best these cinemas and theatres can be made operational (opened to the public) in this era of COVID-19 without compromising the protocols.
This is based on a research from what other countries are doing to avoid the collapse of the creative arts industry.
I therefore propose the following 4 key measures/resolutions to be strictly adhered to by theatre practitioners during their shows;
1. That we are ready to observe all the COVID-19 protocols at our shows should the theatres and cinemas be opened for us to work again.
2. All patrons coming to the cinema must mask up, ushers will also be tasked to inspect same before and during the production or premiere to ensure full compliance.
3. That, social distancing protocols will be fully and strictly observed. By this we are going to be doing half the capacity of the auditorium.
So for an auditorium like the National Theatre that has about 1,490 seats, only 745 patrons will be allowed in for a production, and same will be done at the cinemas too. Hence, one man, one free seat before the next man.
4. Meanwhile, full body sanitizers will be made available at entry points to sanitize patrons before they enter the cinemas and theatres.
In addition, thermometer guns will be provided to check body temperatures of patrons before the start of a show.
Mr. President, to avoid crowding in the lobby before a production or premier, tickets would be sold online.
The doors to the cinemas will also be opened 30 minutes to the start of the show to avoid overcrowding.
More so, there will be a special arrangement to get patrons out of the auditorium without overcrowding, whilst photography in the lobby will be prohibited.
Mr. President we are calling on you because we believe as a father that listens you will listen to us.
We in the creative arts industry are pleading with you to reconsider your decision on the closure of cinemas and theatres.
Please in the name of the Almighty God, open the theatres and cinemas for us to work.
Opening the cinemas and the theatres will put us back in business thereby producing quality content to educate, inform and entertain Ghanaians, generate revenue for the country as well as project the beautiful cultural diversity and value of Ghana through the arts and generally attract more foreign investors.
By: Francis Nutakor (Theatre consultant)