The Search for Opera — aka Ghallywood

My second Accra historic movie house quest was to find the famed Opera Theatre. I choose this theatre as my next pursuit because I remembered noticing the façade when haggling for a “She’s a Devil” Nollywood movie poster back in 2004. While I didn’t know the precise location of the building I had a hunch about where I might have been able to find it. I wandered from Accra’s Tema station, passing the Rex Cinema on my left, towards Melcom and on to the Central Post Office suspecting I would pass the building on my way. Once I reached the Post Office I became a bit perplexed. I was certain that I would have already spotted the building. Dismayed, I retraced my steps. Where had it gone? I began taking pictures of buildings that I thought could have been the theatre until I spotted an archway with “OPERA” written across. Excitedly I wandered through into a courtyard. All over the walls of the building were the words “Opera Shopping Centre.” Was this the same Opera Theatre now a mall?

A man in the courtyard confirmed my suspicions. The reason I had difficulty identifying the building from the front was that the iconic entrance had been completely covered with a new façade for GT Bank, the current tenant. Fortunately, the original historic exterior remains, only now hidden underneath a modern mask.

While the building no longer belongs to the movie industry, its surrounds are dominated by it. Opera Square is the epicenter of the Ghallywood, the Ghana movie industry. All around the Opera Theatre building you will find giant movie posters advertising the newest release, upstart production companies and market stalls selling VCDs from Nollywood, Bollywood and of course Ghana’s own Ghallywood. I stopped, bought a few and headed home wondering about the origins of Ghana’s video industry convinced that it grew up around the Opera Theatre precisely because its long cinema history made it synonymous with the movies.

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