The remodelling of Africa’s largest film industry
Funke Akindele’s Omo Ghetto, which has generated over N640 million in gross revenue, took over a year to produce. This is a rarity for a Nollywood industry once known to churn out tens of movies on a weekly basis.
In a post-premiere interview, Akindele said the movie took that long because the production crew needed to get every digital component of the movie correctly. For example, the yellow Volkswagen used by the character Lefty took a lot of time as they had to redesign and reconstruct it to become the final car that was used in the movie.
Putting a lot more care in the movie production process to ensure the quality meets global standards has become a trend for directors in the industry in recent times. Movies that have achieved success like King of Boys: Return of the King, Citation, Elevator Baby, Chief Daddy 1, and Prophetess, to mention a few have the same hallmark of attention. It is therefore not surprising to many that the industry has attracted big foreign investors in recent years.
Read also: Nollywood rides digital adoption to get world’s attention
Netflix according to a 2021 UNESCO report declared that its African subscribers have increased to over 2 million, with Nigeria being a major market. This increasing number is due to the positive impact Covid-19 lockdown brought to digital platforms across the continent.
The digital streaming platform officially entered the Nigerian market in 2019. That year, the platform was estimated to have attracted some 50,000 subscribers.
Kayode Kasum, a Nollywood film director with his most notable works like 2019 ‘Sugar Rush’ and most recent movie ‘Soole’, told BusinessDay that the competition between cinema and streaming service was to the benefit of the players in the industry. It means that producers now have different means of generating income while the audience can choose which platform provides the most entertainment and is also affordable. It also means producers have to up their game in serving quality movies that can draw audiences to either cinemas or streaming.
The market leaders
Patrick Enaholo, Faculty, School of Media and Communication, Pan-African University, Lagos, gave insights on the recent data in the distribution industry, stating that Omo Ghetto: The Saga, which he fondly refers to as ‘the shining star’ is still a record-breaking movie with over N636 million made this year, topping Hollywood movies such as Fast and Furious (F9) movie which came second place in local cinemas grossing N467 million, a gap of almost 200 million.
Nollywood has produced 111 movies this year so far and 63 movies for Hollywood. In terms of gross Hollywood has made over N4.5 billion this year which is 59 percent of the industry gross Nollywood has almost N3 billion.
There are so many movies made by Nollywood filmmakers and producers. But they’re not, obviously, as patronized as Hollywood movies.
What’s driving interest/investment?
With the rise of quality content in our cinematography, the movie industry has raised the bar in terms of the receiving audience and gaining interest from foreign investment.
“A lot of entrepreneurs and investors are beginning to see that there is a profitable business in filmmaking in Nigeria. Studios are making the investment of getting equipment and investing in talent to make high-quality premium Nollywood features. We are grateful about that and that’s what is making the improvement in cinematography and quality of pictures that people have said Nollywood has grown in that category,” Kasum said.
According to Damilola Aleje, a Nollywood creative producer in an interview with BusinessDay, Nollywood has taken steps in making African folktales more watchable with better storytelling and technology.
“We are doing great as an industry, our movies are picture crispy, there is more attention to details, the picture angles and quality are better. We have advanced from the cliche Nollywood storytelling and telling better mind-blowing stories but we can do more technologically to match the product from Nollywood.” Aleje said.
What business model works and why?
Since 2018, almost every film that debuted in the last week of December has been a Box Office success. In 2018, Chief Daddy made N273 million in its first week, compared to N270 million in 2020 for Omo Ghetto: The Saga. In their respective years, both films were released over the Christmas season. In December, other films such as Living in Bondage, Merry Men 2, Sugar Rush, and Your Excellency were released, grossing hundreds of millions.
Indeed, the top five films were released in the second half of December between the end of 2018 and April 2021. As a result, there’s a strong probability that films released over the holiday season will draw more crowds in their initial few weeks than during any other time of year.
With that mention, upcoming movies such as Aki and Paw Paw, Christmas in Miami, and Detour are looking to repeat the same feat to penetrate the holiday moviegoer market. The same can be said about Kunle Afolayans ‘A Naija Christmas looking to do good numbers on Netflix as its release date is set for the holiday season.
“When it’s the Christmas period, people want to make a Christmas movie that would be an event by the end of the year for Nollywood filmgoers to go and watch. It is intentional to make a December film. over the years it’s shown that December titles always end up doing well,” Kasum added.
Hollywood blockbusters are out to compete on gross earnings as the third franchise of Marvel’s Spider-Man movie will hit cinemas mid-December with Marvel fans both locally and internationally is set to give the movie record-breaking first-week gross earnings.
Enaholo further suggests that movie producers and directors should not be in a hurry to produce movies and should invest time, effort, and money in the quality of movies as Hollywood producers do.
The innovative marketing put into Omo Ghetto: The Saga was one not seen in the industry. First, it was the premiere event which was ghetto-themed with a lot of A-list celebrities coming to see the movie keeping covid protocols and the events flooded the internet, spiking expectations from fans who saw their favorite celebrities giving high recommendations about the movie.
The social media marketing was equally as huge as the publicity the premier made for the movie. They created dedicated social media pages for the movie that has now gathered tens of thousands of followers. A dedicated hashtag had about 32k unique posts on Instagram with about 3ok unique tweets on Twitter.
“So my point in all this is that it’s not just about the quality of movies, but then the marketing strategy one has to look at the market, look at the audience, look at filmgoers, cinema-goers and ask questions like “what is the best time to release this movie, ” Enaholo said.
Mike Folarin, Nollywood Actor featured in the recent movie Soóle speaks with BusinessDay on the strategies the industry needs to follow to be able to compete with Hollywood in the local box office.
“We need to focus on telling our regional stories. We need to stick to the origins that are peculiar to us. It’s different from what the professional Hollywood productions are telling and we can’t tell if more than they can. We have to tell stories that don’t attract them because that’s what they don’t have. Marketing our own stories would be easier,” Folarin said.