Ethiopian cinema, like the country’s film industry in general, is a relatively young phenomenon. Ethiopia’s film industry is thriving, but it has been hampered by difficulties that have prevented it from attaining its full potential. In the past, Ethiopians preferred live stage theater, which produced a small number of relatively successful stage actors. Ethiopian films have been modernizing in the 2000s, adding Amharic language, although copyright infringement and piracy have slowed their progress due to widespread home video and DVD distribution. As a result of government engagement and policy imposition in the early 2010s, this decreased. Despite recent progress, Ethiopian film production has remained low-quality in compared to international premieres, owing to a low-budget, amateurish approach. Ethiopian cinema first launched in 1898, three years after the world’s first film, which premiered on December 25, 1895. However, the rate of expansion has slowed drastically as a result of ongoing social upheaval. Due to political pressure, Ethiopia’s film industry has advanced historical and documentary films, which have been associated with cultural, religious, and national roots for decades.
Berhanou Abebbé alleged in a 2003 essay for Annales d’Ethiopie that a Frenchman brought the first cinematic artifacts to Ethiopia in 1898 and sold them to Italian minister Federico Ciccodicola. Ciccodicola then presented Emperor Menelik II with a gift. According to historians Berhanou and Richard Pankhurst’s books, the Majesty saw a variety of films over the course of decades before the first public film screening in (1909–1910). In 1923, Ethiopians finished and built the first cinema. According to Berhanou, MM. Baicovich owned the first cinema, Pate, from 1909 to 1910. During the early days of cinema, many were dissatisfied with what they saw. In Impressions d’Ethiopie, Berhanou reported French historian Merab as saying, “People certainly didn’t like to entertain themselves” (1922).