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Impressive half-year result shows cinemas rebound

With a total movie ticket sales of N959.9 million (almost N1bn) from half year of 2021, the Nigerian movie sector is fast recovering from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic that grounded the sector from March ending till September 2020.

The 2021 half year result, which is over N500 million less than the N1.5 billion total movie ticket sales recorded in the same period in 2019, is still regarded as very impressive because cinemas run at 60 percent capacity today amid challenges and safety concerns.

The 2021 half year figure, obtained from data released by the Cinema Exhibitors Association of Nigeria (CEAN), is also impressive when compared with the N700 million total movie ticket sales recorded from January – March 2020 before the lockdown, followed by a six-month zero revenue from April to September 2020 due to the lockdown.

The year 2019 is used as a benchmark because that year, Nigerians spent about N6.7 billion on movie tickets; a figure that represents over 200 percent increase from about N2 billion spent on movies at the cinemas in 2018.

According to many industry experts, the total movie ticket sales this year is likely going to reach the over N6 billion recorded in 2019, as the sector is witnessing flooding of the movie market with huge number of quality movie productions influenced by the lockdown as well as the October and December sales windows, which usually double the whole year’s earnings due to high patronage.

“We are happy that cinemagoers are back. We may not surpass the over N6 billion sales of 2019 because we still run at 60 percent capacity. But we hope to attempt it because the Nigerian audiences are responding very well to our offerings, there are many quality Nigerian movies in cinemas and the patronage is good,” Clement Omoruyi, a cinema exhibitor, says.

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Moreover, the figures for the second half of 2021 are expected to soar far beyond the first half because there are over 2,599 movies made in 2020 that are now being released in the cinemas everyday this year.

“The last six months have witnessed more movie premieres than the whole of 2019. It is incredible because many who were held back by the pandemic are coming out and showcasing now,” Omoruyi states.

According to data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the number of movie production surged by 477.6 percent to 2,599 in 2020, the highest when compared with 450 movies in 2017, 565 in 2018 and 700 in 2019. The feat was despite COVID-19 challenges.

Yet, the number of movies produced in the first quarter of 2021 stood at 416, almost close to what was made in 2017, according to the NBS data.

According to Kikelomo Obembe, a distributor with Silverbird Cinemas, Nigerian cinemas have never seen a huge number of quality movies like before, which is a testimony to the sheer creativity of our movie makers, and most importantly, giving cinemagoers more reasons to visit the cinemas today.

“I see more people going to cinemas to see new Nigerian movies, there are many of such quality works and the audiences are appreciating the quality with good patronage. I see revenue figures rising neck to neck with the 2019 figure because the end of the year is usually peak for cinema business,” she says.

There are also more activities on movie locations, a pointer to efforts at sustaining more excitement for cinemagoers across the year. “I have been to four locations for four different movies this year, two are premiering this September and I hope to be in more locations before the year ends. So, the numbers, including revenue, will soar this year,” Prince Ani, a Nollywood actor, says.

Damilola Adewale, a Lagos-based economic analyst, points out the resilience of the sector even during the disruptive year 2020, noting that with more quality movies to watch in 2021, the sector will live up to its potential this year and beyond.

Movie experts also think that the figures will improve better in the second half of this year because of the growth in the movie streaming sector.

It would be recalled that in 2020, Netflix, a global on-demand movie streaming company, increased its Nollywood originals on its video streaming platform and also collaborated with Nollywood directors and producers to churn out more local Netflix originals.

That singular act has seen Netflix subscribers in Nigeria almost doubling the 50,000 base today, with more money earned by the movie makers and the industry at large.

Though many fear that the new variant of COVID-19 may disrupt the sector again, especially if it spreads more than necessary and government enforces restrictions once more to curtail it, industry experts assure that it would not impact much on the sector again as businesses have innovated ways to stay afloat now and there are vaccines also.

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