Although the name Port Harcourt means different things for different persons, but those familiar with the capital city of Rivers state would remember with nostalgia the good old days when the Garden city of Nigeria bubbled with night life and unadulterated fun, particularly in the early ‘70s and the late ‘80s. This was the era of nigh clubbing and cinema viewing then, Port Harcourt was placed second to Lagos in terms of full blown entertainment.
Among the night clubs that held sway in those days were Lido Night Club, Club 67, Copa Kabana, kakadu, Ritz, Orupolo Nigh Club etc. These clubs later gave way to new ones namely: Music Machine, Dreams, Uncle Sam, O.J. Maroric, Acquarius, Heart Beat, Twan light, Chez Therez, Milk and Honey, Chichi Night Club later changed to Rollingstone, bootleggers and Oxygen amongst others.
Regrettably, these popular clubs sank into oblivion within a short space of time thus paring way for the emergence of new ones such as Illusions, Cassablanca, The Wish, Miliki Davang and Boomerrang which now compete with drinking palours and other hangouts for survival.
Apart from the night clubs, cinema culture was also in vogue in those old days. It was an era when cinema houses were competing for the peoples’ patronage. People enjoyed going to cinema houses to watch interesting western movies, Chinese and Indian films along Okija road, Mile I Diobu Port Harcourt. Some of the popular film houses then included Empress cinema along Okija street, Mile I Diobu Port Harcourt and the Rivolic cinema in the old Port Harcourt township axis among several, others.
Residents of the oil rich city were contented with the state of affairs until 1984 when Alade Aromire, a budding film producer and actor then, Shot his film on video format titled “Ekun.” It was the first home video in Nigeria. Though far from being a commercial success, the production of Ekun’ on VHS format opened a new chapter in the evolution of home video film industry in the country. Since then, the home video industry has taken over the entertainment world in Port Harcourt.
In 1996, another home popular video titled living in Bondage produced by Kenneth Nnebue came out and recorded success commercially.
The success recorded and the glomour inherent in these films motivated other movie producers to cue in.
This finally sounded a death knee for cinema viewing culture in Port Harcourt until recently when silverbird cinemas and Genesis Cinemas were established to re-awaken the spirit of cinema viewing in the Garden city.
An ‘old school’ resident, Mr Stephen Orlu who spoke with The Tide recently disclosed that he had been living in the city for the past 55 years. According to him, Port Harcourt is no longer what it used to be interms of night life and entertainment, because of increase in crime rate prostitution and other social vices that have instilled fear and sense of insecurity amongst the populace.
He regretted that drinking joints and other hangouts have taken over night life in the city.
Some of these popular joints include Charlies, Mr. Sweet, Ben Harry, Cool Breeze, Eddiez Wine bar, Stanza, G’ Branda etc, most of which are located within the GRA axis and its environ and as well as old Port Harcourt township.
Mr. Orlu maintained that although these hangouts also provided fun and relaxation, they are not in the same class as the night clubs because night clubs have entertainment facilities such as dancing floors and super sound system cosy environment and choice drinks which gives it class and exclusiveness.
He noted that the clubs were more conducive for fun seekers stressing that most times the drinking joints were being patronized by every Dick, Tom and Harry including sex workers.
Another resident who has spent over 40 years in the city, Mr. Ambrose Thompson contended that the post amnesty programme of the Federal and State governments have restored peace, security and development in Rivers State and other states of the Niger Delta Region as people now go out, without fear, to relax themselves.
He however, observed that the development has brought about a negative trend in night life as it has led to increase in prostitution. He stressed that the ‘scarlet sisters’ have taken advantage of the peaceful environment to boost their inglorious sex trade.
This has affected the psyche of many fun seekers who, before exploited the cozy nature of Port Harcourt to relax themselves.
However, the entertainment industry in the state has reached a height that now proels it to international recognition and give both the artistes and showbiz personalities an enviable status. The fear now is how to nurture a greater height.