Top Women in Global Exhibition 2019: Ozioma Sammie-Okposo, Filmhouse Cinemas

Earlier this year, Boxoffice partnered with Celluloid Junkie to present the fourth annual list of Top Women in Global Exhibition, published in our CinemaCon issue. Throughout 2019, Boxoffice will continue to honor the women who have an immeasurable impact on the exhibition industry with a series of in-depth profiles.

As the human resources manager at Filmhouse Cinemas, one of Nigeria’s two leading cinema chains, Ozioma Sammie-Okposo has a key role in an exciting emerging market. For three consecutive years, the West African territory has experienced double-digit admissions growth—a fact that didn’t go unnoticed by NATO, which named Nigeria the 2019 Emerging Market Spotlight Award winner. That growth is expected to continue; per Moses Babatope, managing director of Filmhouse affiliate FilmOne, the Nigerian market could potentially grow from their current count of approximately 200 screens to 5,000 over the next decade.

How and when did you come to work with Filmhouse? What line of work were you in before?

I was with Odeon Cinemas in the United Kingdom until the summer of 2010, when I moved back to Nigeria to join the start-up management team of Filmhouse Cinemas. 

What drew you to the film business?

As a young adult just arriving in the U.K., I needed a job. I also enjoyed seeing movies as a hobby. So when I learnt of an opportunity at Odeon, I grabbed it. Passion for the business grew over time and I found myself more interested in the H.R. aspect of the business and developed myself in that area.

What is the biggest challenge facing the Nigerian exhibition market in 2019? What is the greatest opportunity?

As an emerging market, the challenges we face are enormous, ranging from piracy to tax systems to inadequate infrastructure. However, the Nigerian market exudes untapped potential and opportunities as a result of its massive appetite for film entertainment. There are millions of film lovers yet to have access to cinemas, and so business will continue to thrive as we expand. 

What is your proudest achievement of your time so far at Filmhouse?

I feel fulfilled every time I see staff who have developed under my tutelage to become outstanding at their roles. Generally, I am excited about how far we have come and how well we have grown as a company into a major player in this part of the world, especially given that I was key throughout the process.

How would you evaluate the progress women have made in the exhibition business in the past few years?

I believe the film industry in Nigeria has been one of the most fulfilling for the feminine gender. In recent times, we have celebrated several successes in production, distribution, and even exhibition. Women have occupied strategic spots as front-liners in the industry. 

Can you tell us about some of your mentors in this business?

I love to learn from people irrespective of their positions. Generally, I’ll say that I am a product of several influences.

What advice would you give to women just entering the movie exhibition business?

I would say they should be confident in themselves, because the opportunities are enormous for those who are ready to take up challenges.

What are the key accomplishments you would still like to make during your time at Filmhouse?

I want to continue being a part of the building process and help drive our goals to realization.

Describe your ideal moviegoing experience.

Seeing an intriguing film with a full pack of crunchy popcorn, nachos, and a soft drink.

Can you describe a formative moviegoing experience from your childhood?

Growing up, we had community cinemas which were located at not-too-serene areas. So I did not do so much moviegoing. However, I had fun watching films from home, such as Conan the Barbarian, Red Sonja, “Tom and Jerry,” Aladdin, Cinderella, as well some Bollywood and early Nollywood films.

What can companies like Filmhouse do to encourage diversity within the exhibition industry?

Nontheatrical platforms are becoming an important part of the exhibition industry. It is important that stakeholders channel their resources towards this sector to provide efficient options for exhibiting film contents. The company, through its distribution arm and sister companies FilmOne and MyFilmhouse, have explored the ancillary window for films as an approach towards maximizing revenue. I think it’s time other players in the industry do the same.

Filmhouse—and the Nigerian exhibition industry as a whole—has been expanding rapidly over the past several years. How does that affect your role as FilmHouse’s H.R. manager? How do you ensure that corporate culture stays positive as the company grows?

As capacity increases, there will always be the need for training, retraining, and effective communication, which have been the responsibility for me and my team recently. Currently, there is a general focus on optimizing our service delivery to reflect the strength of our brand. We try to make every member of Filmhouse’s staff understand that the company’s brand is reflected in the way they take up their responsibilities. That has been very beneficial in our efforts to maintain a strong corporate culture. 

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