Kenya’s Taste Makers: The Local Movie Shop

A conspicuous feature of an atypical settlement in Nairobi is the presence of a movie shop or three within the main shopping center. Especially in the lower middle class neighborhoods. A movie shop is your source of entertainment for the weekend or after a long day at work and sitting in traffic. A collection of DVDs from the movie guy is a common feature in many households in Nairobi and other major cities in Kenya.


The best movie shops have attendants who are natural listeners. Storytellers. A session at the movie place is enough to make you smile. To give you a reason to look forward to the weekend. Sometimes a casual chat and scrolling through the selection of movies is all the therapy you need to get relief from your week long fatigue. Most visits are slotted for Friday evenings when you stop to get your dose of binge worthy entertainment.

Movie shops in Kenya work in a very unique way. The attendants print out posters of all the popular movies and series to plaster them around the shop as a display of the available movies. This is also the cue for passers by to realize that there is a new movie shop in the hood. Loud music blasting from a speaker system is the other unspoken rule to owning a movie store.

Where do the movies come from? They are downloaded from torrent sites. Piracy in Kenya is a way of life. It’s openly commercial. Many Kenyans have watched the latest blockbusters from Hollywood courtesy of our systematized piracy. The ubiquitous movie shop also serves as the hub of DJ mixes with a wide range of hit songs. All pirated of course.

Therefore, how are movie shops Kenya’s taste makers? The movie selection available reflects the aspirations of the people living in the area. More often than not, clients ask for movie recommendations from the ever knowledgeable movie shop attendant. Thus, depending on the client’s profile, tastes or age, the attendant helps pick out a few movies. The clients are always eager to come back with their feedback on the movie selection they received. Through this, the movie guy fine tunes his recommendations. After a while, they become experts at choosing the best movie for clients in the area.

Movie shops also shape and influence regional tastes and inclinations. In the rural and Peri — urban areas, we see an entirely different selection of movies from the estates in the heart of Nairobi or the major cities. Hollywood movies with commentary in the area’s native tongue and Nigerian movies are common in rural and Peri-urban areas. They are also common in the low income areas in Nairobi and other major towns. However, in the lower middle class estates, the movie shops are laden with the latest series and movies from Hollywood. These residents are die hard fans of the best rates series in this generation.

These watching habits influence everything from conversation on social media, world views, dressing choices and conversely consumer habits. We will look at more Kenya’s taste makers this week. This will serve as the preamble to  Series17, the review of the trends that influenced conversation in Kenya 2017. Keep it here and subscribe to the Series17 weekly newsletter to make sure you get the full report when we finish creating it.

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