Here’s all you need to know about the controversy over screening of Genevieve Nnaji’s “Lionheart” in Nigerian Cinemas


The last few days has a seen a major controversy in Nollywood, involving veteran actress who recently ventured in directing and producing, Genevieve Nnaji and the Cinema Exhibitors Association of Nigeria (CEAN).

Nnaji’s Lionheart was recently bought by Netflix, one day before its screening at the Toronto International Film Festival, and last week, Netflix announced that it will start showing in January 2019 on its platform.

It was also announced last week that the movie will be in Nigerian cinemas from today but it announcement was met with some controversy.

A statement from the Lionheart team that has since gone viral, alleged that the “powers that be” (distribution companies) have refused to show the movie in their cinemas and have even “arm twisted” one of the major distributors who has agreed to show the movie, to back out of the deal because they – “powers that be” – have no stake in Lionheart.

A statement by CEAN’s chairman Patrick Lee has responded to the statement from Nnaji’s team. Lee said that the Lionheart team did not adhere to the processes involved in exhibiting a film in cinemas in the country that’s why most of its members “rightly refused to take the movie.”

See full statement below:

Hi all, as cinema exhibitors we have processes that guide us when considering a movie for exhibition in the cinema.

We expect the movie to come from a licenced distributor, we expect the movie to be given adequate run time in the cinemas before it is officially released on other platforms and also for our cinemas to be provided with adequate notice for the inclusion of the movie in an increasingly crowded calendar. It is clear from the approach taken by the Lionheart team that these processes were not adhered to and most of our members rightly refused to take the movie.

It is also important to note that this movie had been signed up by Netflix months ago, thereby giving Genevieve’s team ample time to secure a spot on the calendar, an option they did not take until quite recently thereby ensuring the possibility of the movie not being shown by cinemas during their preferred date.

Genevieve has starred and produced movies for cinema exhibition in the past so should be familiar with the way the industry works which is why this is a cause for concern for us in the cinema association.

Finally it’s worth pointing out that other movies such as Chief Daddy, KOB and Merry men had all been slated from early March this year. Mo Abudu, AY and Kemi Adetiba who are industry compatriots of Genevieve’s followed the right approach by scheduling early for cinema release, it’s not fair that they may now possibly have their screen times reduced because of the rushed inclusion of Lionheart in the cinemas.

We at the cinema association are also not pleased about the attacks in the statement on some of our members and the sweeping generalisations the statement makes and expect to seek further clarification from its author before determining if further action needs to be taken.

However, Blue Pictures Nigeria has released an announcement, saying the movie will begin screening in cinemas from today as scheduled.