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Nollywood in post Covid-19
IF limited public gathering continues to be the new normal, the rising cinema culture in Nigeria will experience a premature landing. The situation can only take us back to a somewhat analogue era.
What this simply means is that, we would probably be back to how entertainment was consumed in Nigeria before 2007, when ‘Through the Glass’ a film by Stephanie Okereke-Linus opened the floodgate to a modern Nigerian cinema era.
Recall that Nollywood earned its name from a DTH model, and while the home video business held sway; the transition was from VHS to VCD and DVD.
In all, one factor that has remained a setback for this model is the problem of piracy, until the cinema came to the rescue, and subsequently; pay TV acquisitions, and digital streaming. Without doubts, this forms of distribution and exhibition has relatively earned our filmmakers some ROI.
There was a resurgence of the cinema going culture in Nigeria in May 2004 with the establishment of Silverbird Cinema at the Silverbird Galleria inLagos, but at the time, Hollywood films dominated the exhibition space largely because Nollywood had maintained a direct-to-home production, and later on, the Africa Magic chains on Dstv.
Now that what appears to be the new normal is home entertainment, not only will pirates be waiting with their desperate fangs again, the lessons of quality upgrade that theatre has taught our filmmakers are likely to drop too — the latter because after the establishment of Silverbird Cinema in Lagos, one of the earlier challenges for Nollywood films in the theatre was that they were adjudged unfit due to low quality of production, until filmmakers began to use upgraded equipment.
While a predominant home form of entertainment will not be a problem for the developed countries, the same cannot be said of Nigeria where poor electricity supply and high Internet tariff continues to be a huge challenge. Unfortunately, resorting to VCD/DVD distributions will only re-enact old nightmares.
To understand what cinema business has done for Nigerian filmmakers since 2007 is to underscore the number of cinema houses and filmmaker-millionaires that have emerged through the theatre exhibition experience.
Although ‘Through the Glass’ did not achieve much commercial success, having made about N13 million in three weeks of exhibition, the next remarkable Nigerian production, ‘The Figurine’ (2009), by Kunle Afolayan endeared more people to the cinemas, thus the film made about N25million.
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There was a notable progression in box office earnings, as a project, ‘Ije-The Journey’ (2010) by another Nigerian filmmaker, Chineze Anyaene, who also attended the New York Film Academy recorded N59 million, showcasing in five cinemas across three Nigerian cities.
It was the first time a Nigerian movie was making such earning. And this brought hope to many who began to see the cinema as a way of outsmarting DVD pirates who were known to feast on the IP rights of filmmakers. For a long time, ‘Ije’ became a reference point for possibility.
When in 2012, the first Filmhouse Cinema was opened in Surulere, hope for more earnings rose, but for a while, none was able to beat the record of ‘Ije’.
However, Kunle Afolayan’s ‘Phone Swap’ (2012) was an improvement on ‘The Figurine’, having made about N30million in the cinemas.
Again, Afolayan’s ‘October 1′ (2014) was an improvement on his previous work with more than N35million box office sales apart from about N60million it clinched through the filmmaker’s private screening initiative.
In the same year, there was another unprecedented bumper earning by first-time feature film producer, Ayo Makun whose film, ’30 Days in Atlanta’ made N100million.
By this time, Filmhouse’s strategic development plan to roll-out 25 cinemas over a six year period had yielded about 60 per cent, added to the likes of Viva Cinema in Ibadan and Ilorin, Kada Cinema in Benin, Dews Cinema in FESTAC Town, Royal Cinema in Alimosho, 5D Cinema 9Ja in Port-Harcourt and Genesis Deluxe Owerri among others.
As the cinema houses rose in number and across several Nigerian states, the exploits of Nigerian films in the cinemas have been particularly remarkable.
From ‘The CEO’ to ‘Wives on Strike’, ‘A Trip to Jamaica’, ‘The Wedding Party’, ‘The Wedding Party 2’, ‘Chief Daddy’, ‘Sugar Rush’, ‘Merry Men’, ‘Merry Men 2’, ‘King of Boys’, ‘Your Excellency’, and ’10 Days in Sun City’, the figures are in hundreds of millions of naira.
With the above scenarios, it is obvious that the best form of adjustment is not to return to the failed VCD/DVD days, but a proactive measure of improving the economy through constant electricity and affordable Internet services.
This way, local earnings by our filmmakers can complement the inflow from streaming Nigerian films among consumers in the Diaspora.
Nollywood in post Covid-19