Many of us were led to believe that IMAX Kenya would be on its way out after spending eight years in the Kenyan cinema market scene.
On Thursday July 9, they downplayed fears over its departure after auctioneers on Wednesday July 8 raided IMAX Theatre at 20th Century Plaza on Mama Ngina Avenue, Nairobi over Ksh8 million rent arrears.
They spoke to 254News.co.ke to address the claims of being auctioned and whether they would leave the premises after eight years of drawing a young audience from all walks of life.
“We are not even being auctioned. We are here to stay”, they quipped.
They further addressed those claims in a statement posted on their official Instagram account.
“Due to the adverse economic impact of the sudden closure of our premises, we sought to negotiate a reasonable discount on the rent payable during the pandemic when we remained closed. The negotiations were on going and it came as a shock to us that the landlord chose to distress for rent and seek to auction our property.” wrote the statement by Anga IMAX’s director Naomi Mwangi.
“The rent amount claimed by the landlord is disputed and has accrued during the pandemic period and a big part is advance rent payable in advance up to August. The landlord also holds a deposit in cash of twice the amount he seeks to recover at the auction.”
The statement further went on to address the auction notice which was obtained in court without notifying the cinema powerhouse and giving them a chance to table their case in court.
“The auctioneer obtained ex-parte orders to break into our premises. We are law abiding and we have obeyed the order of the court to allow the auctioneer to seize our property at 20th Century Plaza. Our lawyers are currently pursuing the matter in court and we trust that the court will allow us to present our case and it will reach a just decision on this matter.” Mwangi added.
Ideal Auctioneers on Wednesday July 8 carted away the theatre equipment and left the premises clean in a bid to raise arrears owed by Arfa Afra Limited which operates the cinema.
The auctioneers carried with them retractable seats, projectors, TV sets, power back-up units, roof and wall mounted speakers, POS, printers and computers, and bar and kitchen items.
“The order for sale of the property by our clients (landlord) are over accrued arrears over a period amounting to more than Sh8 million,” Mr Paul Githirwa from Ideal Auctioneers said.
The ban on social gatherings and closure of bars and restaurants has hit the entertainment sector hard. Also, the directive by some companies requiring their employees to work from home has affected businesses in the CBD that rely on after-work traffic.
President Uhuru Kenyatta in April urged property owners to reduce rents or defer payment to help tenants survive the tough economic environment brought by the pandemic.
However, a survey conducted by Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) in May revealed that only 8.5 percent of property owners had offered rent reliefs in April.
A third of the tenants in the country said they were unable to pay rent in April, while 21.5 percent of those who defaulted said they had always met their obligations on time, highlighting the impact the global pandemic has on incomes.
The famous movie theatre is run by Arfa Afra Limited which also owns Anga Sky at Panari Hotel along Mombasa Road and IMAX Diamond, in Parklands.
IMAX 20th Century is the only remaining movie theatre within Nairobis CBD. It was relaunched in 2012 following the change of name from 20th Century Fox Cinema.
It is Kenya’s first digital IMAX theatre system which was launched in 2012 and could accommodate 255 people seated at a go.
The theatre is the second commercial screen for IMAX in Africa, after Morocco.
To accommodate the changes, the usual screen and sitting space was expanded into the massive hall that previously housed two screens.
Also, the theatre had to have its roof elevated, the incline of the seats steepened and its screen widened to almost double the size of an ordinary theatre screen.
A 17×9 metre screen would take up approximately thirteen 51inch plasma screens to fill its face.