Films and video rental services, once a thriving business in Nigeria are going out of business, a survey by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) shows.

NAN found that the outlets, which provided lovers of home-videos from NollyWood easy access to the films, \re closing because of low patronage arising from easy access to satellite television.

Meanwhile, while the operators complain of low patronage and are quitting, film directors and producers say the outlets are channels of piracy.

NAN found that operators of the outlets have resorted to selling video films, telephone recharge cards, among others, to survive.

In the Southeast zone, the business of video rental has been on the decline, especially since the advent of memory cards and affordable pay-television services.

The use of memory cards has, to a large extent, taken over the once flourishing neighbourhood-based video rental businesses in Enugu State.

A video rental shop owner in Achara Layout, Mr Echezona Obasike, told NAN that the business was not thriving any more.

Obasike said that it had been so bad that he rented only 10 video disks per week at N50 each.

He said he had diversified his business by selling the videos/films out as well as small electronic wares.

“Before the advent of these new technologies, we had the challenge of customers not handling the video compact disk (CD) carefully, thus cracking it and making it unusable for other customers,’’ he said.

A resident of Independence Layout, Enugu, Mr Friday Ocha, said that he registered with two video rental shops or video clubs.

“I am no more with them since I have got a pay-TV in my home.

“It is also a known fact that technology has overtaken that business.

“Since video CD machines of these days come with ports for memory card and USB flash drive, I can save hundreds of films to these devices for N10 or N20.

“You can wipe out the content of these devices anytime by the same boys that specialise in transferring these films and music from the computer to these devices,’’ Ocha said.

In Owerri, a video rental operator, Mr Chucks Nduka, told NAN he still enjoyed some patronage from customers.

Nduka said that the satellite or cable television hardly showed new home videos and as such people relied on the shops to provide them such films.

He said that people still bought or borrowed new films; explaining that new films were rented for N100 while old films went for N50.

Another operator, Mr Lucky Anyanwu, complained of low patronage and attributed the development to the advent of cheap pay-television services.

Anyanwu said that people hardly rented CDs as most of them had satellite dishes in their homes and as such he was using it as a barbershop as well.

“We used to make more money in renting the CDs than selling, because after renting out a CD, you can as well sell them when they are returned.

“What we sell more now is mostly music CDs, movies are not selling well any longer,” he said.

Anyanwu identified some challenges in the business, including customers not returning CDs, while some damaged them.

He said that because of the challenge, he rented out some new films for N150 instead of N100 or N120.

However, Mr Ananyo Nwaopara, said in spite of the presence of satellite TV, he still patronised rental shops.

Nwaopara said it was difficult to see new films on cable television and as such, he watched new films he rented from shops.

“If you check well, you find out that the films on the cables are very old films. You can hardly see them showing recent or new films and the old ones are those you have watched before,” he said.

In Onitsha, Anambra, a rental shop owner, Mr Kenneth Okoye, said: “We are losing patronage from customers, except few students and perhaps traders who sometimes come to pick films.’’

Okoye said that piracy by unscrupulous people in the business also affected patronage.

Mr Uche Onyeka said in Awka that he had been in the business for nine years but that things were falling apart and he planned to quit.

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Onyeka said the poor patronage was worsened by some customers who failed to return the films on time and when they did, they were damaged.

Mr Ailewon Danlami, the Zonal Coordinator, North Central, National Film and Video Censors Board, said aside piracy, the digital age had further increased access to entertainment materials via the Internet.

“People watch movies on You-tube, movie sites or even have mobile cable TV.

“Owners of video and rental centres have turned to marketers and distributors of movies because the rental business is no longer lucrative, especially with the high rate of piracy and access to Internet.

“It is similar to what happened with call centres, who have converted their businesses to sale of recharge cards because of affordability of handsets and the recharge cards now.

` ` When movies are affordable, renting may not be popular.”

Danlami said there were rules for operating video and film rental centres.

“Ẁe normally emphasise on the registration and the size of the centre.

`’Ẁe also insist on the kind of videos; we insist that they must have passed through the checks of the National Film and ‘Video Censors Board to ward off abuses in the system,” he said.

In Birnin Kebbi, the Chairman of the Video Rental Outlets Association, Alhaji Zayyaynu Mai-Cassette, said low patronage had forced him to be selling cassettes instead of renting.

“The essence of any business is making profit to maintain your family and live and feed well and when business cannot generate profit you seek for other avenues to progress.

“I sell cassette as my new business as cassette renting has now become an old-fashioned business – no longer means of survival,” he said.

Alhaji Fuk Bello, the Public Relations Officer of the association, said he sold off his rental outlet as the business was no longer flourishing.

Bello said over 90 per cent of members of the association had dumped the business.

In Yobe, residents said such outlets became the targets of the Boko Harm insurgents and as such the state government outlawed their operations.

However, vendors have resumed the sale of films as relative peace returns to the state.

Some residents of Damaturu, said they depended on satellite stations to watch football and films at home.

Musa Mohammed, said he had a free air-time satellite but bought CDs of specific films to watch at home.

Hauwa Abdullahi, said “we patronise hawkers moving around with pirated copies of films sold at very affordable rates.”

But in Kano, rental business is still thriving.

A check on France Road at Sabon Gari and Rimin Gata quarters in the metropolis shows that many people still operate the business.

An operator on Yoruba Street, Sabon Gari, Kano, Mr Abraham Mormon, said he was still in business although the patronage had reduced.

“I am still in film rental business because it is the business I have been doing for the past 10 years,” he said.

According to him, majority of those who still patronise him are low income earners who cannot afford to pay for the subscription fee of satellite TV stations.

Malam Abdulmumeen Jamil of Sammy Spaco Rental Business Centre at Yankura Market, Kano, said the level of patronage was low.

“But we thank God we are still in the business since we have a number of people who still patronise our services.

“Our charges are cheaper as we collect between N30 and N50 per day and depending on the films. New films normally attract higher charges,” he said.

A resident of Rimin Gata, Mrs Sadiya Nura, said: “ It is cheaper to rent any available film and you can watch as many new films as you want.

“We do not have to pay monthly subscription, like me now I can’t afford to subscribe monthly.”

In Yola, a resident, Bello Mustafa said: “We now have satellite TV like Star-times which costs just N3,000 and you don’t need a dish to install it.

“There are many stations on Star-times that show NollyWood and Hausa films and all you need is just to subscribe for N1,200 monthly. Many people are going for it. ”

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Mustafa explained that the emergence of cheap DVDs, mostly pirated, also affected rental business.

Musa Ibrahim, who used to run a rental business, said he had changed to operating a football viewing centre.

“Football viewing centre is now the business that is thriving; many youths troop in to view European soccer and other leagues,” Musa said.

A resident of Maiduguri, Malam Ma’ana Bukar, attributed the absence of video rental shops in the town to insecurity, which also led to the closure of cinemas.

“We used to have cinemas as well as rental and viewing centres all over the city before 2009.

“But these centres disappeared after the Boko Haram insurgents started killing the owners for unknown reasons,” Bukar said.

Ali Shuaibu, a former owner of a rental shop, said: “We were recording large patronage before the Boko Haram people started targeting us.

“We folded up after three persons were shot at a rental centre in Bulumkutu in 2010.”

He said although operators of cinemas and viewing centres were not affected initially, they also folded up in 2013 after series of bomb attacks on their centres.

“The Military Joint Task Force announced a blanket ban on viewing centres after it was discovered that the insurgents were targeting such places,” Shuaibu said.

Malam Rufai Maijamaa, a rental shop owner in Bauchi, said most people preferred watching movies through satellite channels, which were cheaper and easier to own.

He said that most videos that enjoyed patronage were Hausa movies and recent Indian films translated from Hindi to Hausa.

“Before the emergence of the various satellites channels that showcased different movies, we were making between N5,000 and N7,000 daily but now the turnover has declined.

Another operator of a rental shop, Malam Ibrahim Muhammad, said since the advent of social media, many people were exploring various ways of watching films without g renting.

He said while some young people watched films on YouTube and other social media outlets, others down-loaded movies directly from the Internet.

In Jos, residents said access to cheap CDs and DVDs “for N500 or less has led to the death of video and film rental centres”.

Mr Nanle Bitrus, a civil servant in Jos, said that he could get a DVD for N500 or less and a CD plate for N100.

“If I have such cheap options, why will I rent a CD or DVD at a rental centre and be charged probably N50 daily when I can buy it at an affordable price of N100 per CD or for N500 or less for more than 15 movies?’’

“There is convenience of ownership; it is not rented and one is not under duress to return it even if he is yet to finish with it,” Bitrus said.

Mrs Rebecca Dauda, a housewife in Lafia, said that the affordability of cable TV offered unlimited access to movies on various channels.

“Cable networks are affordable; In some cases, there are daily plans where one can pay per day.

“The quality of the films there is also guaranteed, so one should normally prefer them.

“Generally, they (cable networks) are more convenient than the strict operation of the rental centres.

“You can credit your cable TV with N1200, N1800 with more than 20 channels, depending on the company.

“These movies are repeated in the evenings for those who missed out in the, morning or may even be repeated throughout the week,’’ she explained.

Mr Sola Aderibigbe, who operates a video rental outlet in Ibadan, said he had continued to record low patronage from the sale and renting of CDs and DVDs.

Aderibigbe said CDs and DVDs sold for between N200 and N350, depending on type, popularity and time of the film, while they could be rented at N50 each per day.

Mrs Adenike Ogidan a resident said she enjoyed the services of the satellite televisions because she could access to different channels.

Ogidan added that satellite television was unique because it offered services cutting across various age groups.

Mrs Toyin Akintunde, an operator at Ijeja area of Abeokuta, said she used to rent out a CD for N100 and made, at least N5,000 per day, if the CDs were returned on time.

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She said she could hardly make up to N2,000 in a week with low patronage.

Alhaji Sefiu Tijani an operator in Idi-Abebe in Ijebu-Ode, said that a few families who had passion for new films had kept him in business.

He said he would have closed down the outlet but for the long business relationship that had existed between him and the families.

“Once they see any advertisement or poster of a new film on the television or on the street, they normally come to my shop to ask for it and they will feel disappointed if I do not have it.

“They have been consistent and I do not want to let them down. Once I rent those films out to the few, hardly will I have up to three other people ask for the films.

“I have now combined some little businesses with the video rental business like selling of recharge cards to enable me pay for the shop I am using,” he said.

Mrs Funke Ogabi who operates a rental outfit on Market Road in Ota, Ogun, also complained of low patronage.

Ogabi, however, blamed the development on piracy.

“The pirates now produce a DVD with five or more films in it and sell at ridiculous prices in the market and you know our people like cheap things.

“We buy at the rate of N100 per CD and rent out for N50 or more, depending on how recent the movie is.

“ The pirated ones which are usually a compilation of 10 movies in one CD, are sold for N100 or N150.

“Before now, when a set of movies is released weekly, people rush down to borrow the CDs but now they can watch 10 movies on one pirated DVD.

“They no longer require our services and that is the main reason for the dwindling fortunes of the business,” she said.

Mr Akeem Sunmola, the Chairman of the Lafenwa branch of the Association of Video Rental Operators, said that only four of the 36 members of the association were still in business.

Sunmola blamed the situation on the varieties of films available on satellite television, saying,” with as low as N1,500 a month, you can watch hundreds of films.’’

`An operator in Ijebu-Ode, Ogun, Abiodun Ige sad: `I have since turned to the sale of recharge cards and cold soft drinks in my outlet to complement my rental business.

“I am even doing better in terms of sales than video rental.

“You can’t fight against change, this is the new trend so most people operating video rental outlets are beginning to accept the truth and looking for other survival means.”

Some residents of Ilorin, however, said they still patronised video clubs because satellite television houses did not show current movies.

“We still patronise video rental shops because it is there you can find the latest films.

“Satellite stations do not show newly released films and they show them repeatedly.

“It no longer entertains when you keep seeing the same thing repeatedly.

“So we go to these shops and get the films we desire,’’ said Wale Adekunle, a resident.

Meanwhile, some film producers and directors in Osogbo have appealed to government to make laws that would tackle piracy in the country.

Mr Lukman Jijiola, a film producer, said many of his colleagues had become bankrupt because of the activities of pirates.

Mr Raph Nwadike, National President Association of Movie Producers, said that video rental was no longer viable because many movie producers now see it as “another form of piracy’’.

”In a situation where an operator rents out your film to people who should have come to buy it, without a substantial benefit for you, what would you do?

“Even some of the registered rentals do not fulfil their part to the producers in the course of renting out their films, while they enrich themselves.

“From my years of experience as a producer, I will not support it and I will take legal action against anyone that displays my film for rental purposes,”Nwadike said .(NAN)