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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.


  1. Awesome

    December 20, 2018 at 2:49 pm

    Bellanaija why are you guys giving half gist. What do you find difficult in stating that it is FILM ONE distribution the owners of Film house Cinemas that refused to show the movie in their cinema while it was Silverbird Cinemas that agreed to show the movie regardless of the threats from Filmone and the so called Film distributors.
    And why do you guys decide to paraphrase Genevieve team side of the story (coz I believe you guys have access to it too) but gave a full report of the statement given by the distributors ?

    • [email protected]

      December 20, 2018 at 11:53 pm

      Ok let’s start with logic let’s say by a long short she didn’t follow protocol. This movies has sold out in Toronto, Marrakech and every where it has premiered . Shouldn’t you be begging to have it in your film house from a business profit view. It was short in Nigeria and Nigerians haven’t seen it .
      Netflix bought it (smart move) because they saw a money spiner. It hasn’t even started airing on Netflix you guys are complaining nah wah oh.
      Guys any well made Nigerian movie should air without protocol why because we are not as matured as HW , we are trying to grow a home base cinema goers who will have a huge appetite for locally produced movie that way help the economy.
      Bollywood movies are not better than ours but every time you go to the cinema an Indian movie is airing. I freaking hope it has nothing to do with what AY was talking about ?

  2. BlueEyed

    December 20, 2018 at 5:01 pm

    Follow protocol Genevieve! Because Netflix bought the movie you’re now trying to fast track through our own system because “no be naija we dey” but you’re following protocol with Netflix. And we will say our leaders are our only problem.

    • Ebi

      December 21, 2018 at 5:23 pm

      Taaah mechie gi onu dia!

  3. Dolly

    December 20, 2018 at 5:01 pm

    Here’s my requested 2 cents;
    Genevieve is on her way to becoming a legend in Nollywood but more astonishing is the love she enjoys with her ever loyal, ever growing fan base. She should know from a business perspective that selling her movie to Netflix is bad business for the cinema hence, a wide gap between premiering in Nigerian Cinemas and debuting on Netflix platform. That should have been a logical reasoning. (Foreign movies that goes straight to Netflix hardly have a cinema run)

    That said, I’m not disputing any malicious intent from the distributors, but Genevieve made this easy if truly she just decided to take this movie to the theater at 11th hour..

    Really annoying however is the comparison between a real artiste, passionate about her craft and some other branch in for the money and glam with the exception of Kemi Adetiba (true artiste).
    Always ready to shove box office numbers (true or falsified) down our throat like that makes up for their shallow contents…….we see through y’all!

    Oh I didn’t mention any names so if it doesn’t apply, let it fly!

  4. Labake

    December 21, 2018 at 7:51 am

    Every time Nigerian institutions act up, projects like this get more publicity and succeed on a global stage. Genevieve will be alright, however in future please follow due process. If the reports of Wedding Party 1 are credible, there’s good money to be made from Nigerian cinema, again if the reports are credible

  5. James

    December 21, 2018 at 10:21 am

    @Blueeyed… Which protocol are you talking about…? So let’s assume that she submitted the movie late…. The Powers that be “Filmone and Co” refused to show it in their Cinemas… What right do they have to threaten Silverbird Bird Cinema that agreed to show the movie to back out, if is not a grand conspiracy by Filmone and their cohorts born out of malice, jealousy, envy and inferiority complex that the movie will outshine those they have stakes in… I am glad Silverbird stood their grounds. Las Las the movie is showing at SILVERBIRD Cinemas and we are all rushing this weekend to watch it

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