"Gone Are The Days": a social and business history of cinema-going in Gold Coast/Ghana, 1910-1982
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This dissertation presents a comprehensive business and social history of cinema-going in urban Gold Coast/Ghana from 1914 to 1982, the local beginning and end points of mass participation in that form of leisure. Local business owners invested capital and energy to create an audience for a new leisure form, and they built the sector from a single screen in 1914 to more than seventy cinemas by the early 1960s. Entrepreneurs confronted state regulators, whether colonial or post-colonial, who viewed the cinema as a negative force to be managed - but never embraced. Officials feared that the emergence of a popular leisure form could challenge their efforts to impose particular models of behavior. Successive governments characterized the cinema as a potential source of criminal inspiration. Officials treated expatriate entrepreneurs of the post-war period with equal disdain, profiting from their business know-how but rejecting them when expedient. As the gatekeeper for foreign films, most of which came from the US, the state had a position of considerable legal power. Governments regulated imports, developed censorship policies, and policed screenings. They could not, however, restrain the popular imagination. Ghanaians embraced the cinema from its inception, seeing in it a cheap leisure outlet in urban areas that were reorienting social and familial lives, as well as a means for reflection on their modern selves. Where officials feared imagery of luxury, adventure and romance on the big screen, Ghanaians saw the opportunity for comparison and analysis in addition to rich entertainment. Ghanaian audiences created their own cinema-going culture. They thrived on constant rotation of new films and old favorites to the point of forcing compromise on an American industry eager to impose its own business model in the early 1960s. Ghana's status in the vanguard of African independence prompted internal and external observers to analyze local cinema-going culture to understand and to control the audience in the cheap seats. However, the urban audience fought against this impulse, seeing in the cinema space a place to configure new relationships and to give voice to a joyous engagement with a vibrant, ever-changing art form.