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Nollywood Dilemma IV: Two Brides, A Baby and Nollywood Corruption

Welcome to the continuation of our Nollywood Dilemma. Please do not go ahead without reading the previous part of this article and again I need to let you know that this is a lengthy article but it is definitely worth the read.

Below is the statement of account giving by Blessing Egbe, the film maker behind the Nollywood movie, ‘Two Brides and a Baby’. I want you to read this carefully referencing your new found knowledge from ‘The Nollywood Dilemma III: Corruption, Bullying and the Game of Thrones.’

Blessing’s Press Statement…

‘I write to inform you of the on-going dispute I have with my film distributor Mary Ephraim ITA and Silverbird, Ozone and Genesis Deluxe cinemas.

I had engaged the services of MARY EPHRAIM ITA’s Company – Okhma Global Limited (operating under the name and style of Homelands Distribution) as Agent and Distributors of my movie – Two Brides and a Baby – which opened in Nigerian cinemas on the 25th of November, 2011.   

While her Company had confirmed that the movie had closed in Silverbird Abuja on 13th January 2012, by letters dated the 14th of January and 2nd of February, I was very shocked to discover that as at 2nd February 2012, the movie was still open at the Silverbird cinemas Abuja SEC. In fact, some of my executive producers had their contacts purchase the tickets as proof of this position and I am in possession of same;

By my letter to her on the 30th of December, I had requested for the Master Hard Drives & DVDs that were sent to the Cinemas to be returned following her earlier Reports on closure of the movie in some of the Cinemas, and also for the remaining cinemas still showing the movie to stop because of the new percentage sharing system the cinemas effected which wasn’t favorable to me

She, by a phone call, advised that I allow for continuous run in the cinemas saying it will give the film good publicity towards the DVD release. At first, I agreed but after consultations with my executive producers, I wrote to her the very next day informing her of our final decision to stop showing the movie.

Her letter to me on the 3rd of January declared her instruction to the cinemas to stop all showing.

On the 3rd of January, I received from the distributor, the last of the usual weekly cinema schedule notification which in this case was the weekly schedule from the 6th-12th of January 2012.

This was followed by the usual daily sales reports sent to me via email.

On the 14th of January 2012, she wrote to me declaring and I quote “Two brides and a baby has finally stopped showing in all sites”

At this point, we awaited the return of the materials and payments.  So imagine my shock when On the 1stof February, a fan called me to inform me that she {the fan} was watching ‘Two brides and a baby’ my first thought was ‘oh my God, my movie has been pirated’ I literally asked her where she purchased it from but she told me she was watching it at Silverbird cinemas in ABUJA SEC branch.   

I spoke to a few persons who advised me to get proof and ask the fan to take a picture and send same but since the fan had thrown away her ticket after viewing, I called on a few of my friends to go there the next day and buy tickets.  On the said day, the 2nd of February after I had gotten the proof, I engaged in a chat message with MARY my distributor on BBM to find out the status of my film Master hard drives and DVDs. I was afraid that SILVERBIRD may have made a copy of my film.

In the chat message, the distributor maintained that all of the film’s masters had been collected/sent and promised to make them available for me the very next day being the 3rd of February.  Not satisfied that this chat message was binding enough, a producer friend advised me to email the distributor a letter requesting for an up to date feedback on the start and end dates for each cinemas for my the satisfaction of my inquisitive executive producers which I did on the same day the 2nd of February.  On that same 2nd of February, the distributor replied to my request by email with an attachment of the document containing all the cinema start and end dates

 

NO CINEMAS OPENING DATE CLOSING DATE NO OF WEEKS
1. Silverbird Lagos 11/25/2011 12/22/2011 4
2. Silverbird, Abuja SEC 11/25/2011 1/12/2012 7
3. Silverbird Abuja CEDDI 11/25/2011 12/8/2011 2
4. Ozone Cinema, Lagos 11/25/2011 12/22/2011 4
5. Genesis Deluxe Cinema, PH 11/25/2011 12/22/2011 4
6. Genesis Deluxe Cinema, Lagos 11/25/2011 12/15/2011 3
7. Silverbird, Uyo 11/26/2011 1/12/2012 7
8. Silverbird, PHC 11/25/2011 1/5/2012 6

 

The distributor, in the same letter, also advised us to collect ALL THE HARDDRIVES AND DVDS of the movie on the 3rd of February 2012 at 4pm and in the same letter informed us that payments will come through on the 10th of February. And as of today, I am yet to receive a kobo.

My husband, Mr. Michael Egbe was at her office on Friday 3rd February 2012 to pick up all the Masters but to our surprise only three (3) of the entire seven sets of hard drives and DVDs allocated to each of the 7 cinemas were delivered to him.

The undelivered drives and DVDs include ones sent to;   

1. Genesis cinema Port Harcourt which she claimed had stopped showing the movie 7 weeks before the final claimed official stop date. 

2. Silverbird Ceddi which she claimed had stopped showing the movie 9 WEEKS before the final claimed stop date. 

3 & 4. Silver bird Uyo and Silver bird SEC Abuja which she claimed had stopped showing 3 weeks before the 2nd of February. 

Following this discovery on the continued viewing of the movie at Silverbird Cinemas Abuja SEC, and further to her Company’s inability to make all the hard drives and DVDs available, I now had legitimate reasons to question and disbelieve her earlier financial daily sales report which she computed and sent to me on an excel sheet; and the opening and closing dates of the movie in respective Cinemas. 

At this point, it was apparent that her Company’s records were either incomplete or distorted or somebody had resolved to breach my copyrights in the movie. My lawyer, by a letter dated the 13th of February, wrote and delivered same containing the listings made above and further made the following demands on her Company on my behalf as the movie & Copyright Owner.

a)  That the Contract, Agreement and or other terms/conditions entered into with Cinemas be forwarded to us immediately; 

b)  That an accurate & correct report on the opening and closing dates of the movie in respective Cinemas be made available to us. We assumed that the earlier report was either incomplete or sent to me in error; 

c)  That the outstanding hard drives and or CDs be made available to us immediately. For the unreturned hard drives and CDs, we initiated to compute date of closing from the date her Company returns the FILM MASTERS to me; 

d)  Given the circumstances, we insisted that she must avail to us the ORIGINAL DAILY REPORTS AND OR CORRESPONDENCE that was forwarded by the Cinemas to her Company.

Although her company staff by name Victoria Agbor received and acknowledged the letter, no replies were made until the date given expired.

Our lawyer proceeded to write to the cinemas having informed the distributor in her letter that he will do same should she not reply.

After seven days elapsed, Silverbird and Ozone cinemas remained silent on the matter. Only Genesis Deluxe replied.

In their reply, they stated that, owing to a non disclosure agreement entered into with the distributor, they could not adhere to our demands to make available to us as the true copyrights owners of the film in dispute; the true records of proceeds gotten from the showing of the movie, the accurate stop dates for the movie and the contracts entered into; with the distributor of the movie regarding percentage share and other terms.

My lawyer went on to write again to the cinemas, this time giving them only 3 days to reply before proceeding to file a lawsuit against them.

We are also writing to the copyright commission for protection under the law and to the censor’s board to inform them of the misbehavior of one of their licensed distributors.

I have now written her a letter terminating our distribution deal and whatever other contract terms binds us and have proceeded to obtaining another distributor so that the movie gets the required distribution it deserves and not leave a gap for pirates to take advantage of and feast on.

I have also written to the producer’s guild, to bring to their notice these proceedings and asked that they look into the matter after all, if this fight is well fought and won, it will save a lot of us from going through the same fate.

As it stands, Silverbird ABUJA SEC. may have copied my film and kept a copy to themselves since my distributor claims all materials have been sent to her.

Or

My distributor and Silverbird connived to rip me off of my sweat and hard work not to mention people’s monies.

Plus

Silverbird, Genesis cinemas and Ozone cinemas may have all together made a deal with my distributor to steal from me. Otherwise why would they choose to withhold accounting information from getting to me?

There is no telling what the case might be as all parties involved have remained silent and adamant but soon they will have no option than to respond to the law because I will not relent in my efforts to bring the culprit to book.

‘Two brides and a baby’ has 6 executive producers who contributed a total of Eleven million naira with an extra four million naira coming from my hard earned savings.

I am under pressure as it were to pay my executive producers proceeds from their investment and to make good sales from the movie DVD sales and other sales avenues.

The fact that monies have not been remitted, true accounts withheld, most of my hard drives and DVD masters are nowhere to be found and on top of that to call my bluff and not make an effort to reply; gives me great cause to worry. Therefore I must fight for justice.

There are documents to support every claim I have made herein.

Thank you

Blessing Effiom Egbe, {CEO B’Concept Productions limited}

Producer and copyright Owner of Two Brides and a Baby’

Is it just me or is that a well articulated report of events? Don’t you begin to wonder who exactly is playing what game?

Let me enlighten you some more! After detailing her case to the world, our dear friends at Silverbird decided to release a press statement of  ‘Their own side of the Story’. Read Below:

It has come to our attention that a certain Mrs. Blessing Effiom Egbe has been making disparaging allegations of fraud and unethical practices against Silverbird Cinemas with respect to the exhibition of the movie ‘Two Brides and a Baby’ which was produced by her. The said Mrs. Egbe has gone to the extent of issuing a press statement dated 28/02/2012 and titled ‘Notification of scam and impending lawsuit’. She has also engaged in a campaign of calumny against Silverbird Cinemas on different social media geared towards inciting public hatred against Silverbird Cinemas. It has therefore become necessary to set the records straight in the face of what is obviously cheap blackmail by Mrs. Egbe.

It is important to make it clear from the onset that Silverbird Cinemas does not have any direct business relationship with Mrs. Egbe. In its business as exhibitors of movies to the general public, Silverbird Cinemas deals only with approved movie distributors based on agreed contractual terms. This was not different in the case of the movie Two Brides and a Baby.

Silverbird Cinemas acquired the rights to exhibit ‘Two Brides and a Baby’ from Okhma Global Limited run by one Ms. Mary Ephraim Ita whom we understand is the distributor for the movie and appointed by Mrs. Egbe. Based on the contract signed between Silverbird Cinemas and Okhma Global, it was agreed that the movie would be exhibited at Silverbird Cinemas in Abuja, Port Harcourt, Uyo and Lagos. In all the period of the negotiation, Silverbird dealt directly with Okhma Global Limited to the exclusion of all other persons.

It was agreed between Silverbird Cinemas and Okhma Global Limited that the movie was to be exhibited for a minimum of three weeks and for such extended periods thereafter based on the performance of the movie. To this end, Silverbird Cinemas provided Okhma Global Limited with the movie schedules and sales report for each week in advance for the period that the exhibition lasted. When Silverbird Cinemas expressed its desire to extend the screening of the movie as provided for under the agreement with Okhma Global, it forwarded the movie schedule for the week spanning 27th January 2012 – 2nd February 2012 by email to Okhma Global through its contact person, one Ms. Victoria Agbor. The notification of the schedule which represented the apparent intention to exhibit the movie in the week referred to was never objected to, neither did Silverbird Cinemas receive any notice of termination of the Agreement.

It is therefore incorrect as it is being insinuated by Mrs. Egbe in her press release that the movie was shown beyond 13th January 2012 without her requisite knowledge and consent or that of Okhma Global. Silverbird Cinemas has been in the business of exhibiting both local and international movies for quite a while and its integrity has never been questioned in such a despicable manner. Silverbird Cinemas maintains that it has fulfilled all its contractual obligations with respect to Two Brides and a Baby to Okhma Global which has not raised any issue with it. We would have expected therefore that Mrs. Egbe would have channelled her grievances towards her distributor (Okhma Global) rather than dragging Silverbird Cinemas into her private vendetta.

Silverbird Cinemas is therefore justifiably embarrassed by the contents of the Press Release as well as the various libellous publications instigated by Mrs. Egbe in different social media, blogs and websites including but not limited to her Twitter account, Linda Ikeji’s blog and Nigeriafilms.com which seem to suggest that Silverbird Cinemas fraudulently made copies of the movie to exhibit illegally without the knowledge and consent of Okhma Global or that it has failed to make the necessary royalty payments for the exhibition to Okhma Global which it contracted with.

Silverbird Cinemas views these serious allegations of fraud contained in these publications as unfounded, vexatious, defamatory and a deliberate attempt to smear its hard-won corporate integrity. As a responsible corporate organization, it abides with all the extant Codes of Corporate Governance and goes to great lengths to maintain transparency in all its corporate dealings. Mrs. Egbe’s indiscretion in going public with such unfounded and malicious allegations of a grievous nature as fraud despite explanations made to her to forward any reservations or enquiries she might have with the contract for the exhibition of the movie to Okhma Global has caused Silverbird Cinemas loss of business reputation and goodwill, as it is constantly inundated daily with calls by its business associates seeking to verify the truth of the allegations.

We have also noted the negative comments and conclusions reached by the general public on the websites, blogs and social media based on the stories published on the instigation of Mrs. Egbe. We have therefore instructed our team of lawyers to undertake a review of the circumstances surrounding this episode and we may be constrained to commence legal action against Mrs. Egbe if she does not make a retraction of the defamatory statements she has made against Silverbird Cinemas along with an apology for her false and unfounded statements. Silverbird as an advocate of the growth and development of the Nigerian entertainment industry will continue to support the industry including Nollywood irrespective of the negative publicity.

We also urge members of the press to balance their reporting of this incident based on verifiable facts in line with the best ethics of journalism. Silverbird Communications Limited and by extension, Silverbird Cinemas has an open door policy towards media relations and is always available to make any clarifications on this issue that may be required. For further enquiries, please contact Ayotunde Sewanu on 08030733433.

Signed:

Management.

As someone trying to ‘balance my reporting based on verifiable facts in line with the best ethics of journalism’, I have nothing against Silverbird, in fact I applaud their efforts in the entertainment industry in Nigeria but this ‘their side of the story’ reeked of too much bullshit, pardon my french.

Not a single one of the issues Blessing brought up was addressed head on. Here’s a woman detailing her troubles and telling us that she has approached you for clarification of matters to no avail, but instead of either saying, ‘Oh, we have a non disclosure agreement with the distributor, so we can’t say much’ as genesis did, they decided to paint her like some unreasonable person on a witch hunt.

If they had even kept quiet, I may have said OK, no wahala. But this just seemed like a ploy to discredit Blessing’s story more than an effort to get to the root of the matter and resolve all discrepancies.

Reading the whole story, it seems like this distributor chick was trying to play a fast one and should probably spend some time in some dark dungeon but as an industry with apparent checks and balances on paper, how did it get to this point?

Is this not the reason the cinemas are supposed to collect information about original copyright owners, so that funny business like this does not occur?

My sources tell me that this is just the tip of the iceberg of the shady dealings happening, but too many film makers are afraid to stir the waters.

Are we not supposed to have regulatory bodies monitoring this large industry?

Is there really hope if the culture in the industry is one that promotes regression?

I’ll stop now to allow you contribute but be rest assured, the Nollywood Dilemma continues soon.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Tobi

    7th June 2013 at 5:42 pm

    *loooooooong sigh*
    I can’t say anything until Madame Mary comes forth with the third dimension to this farce. *ransacks room in search of 3D glasses*

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