BusinessDay

Nigeria declines in volume of movie production, soars in quality

... as DVD gives way to cinemas, streaming platforms

While the global audiences are looking forward to Nollywood, the Nigerian movie industry, overtaking the Indian movie industry after surpassing America’s Hollywood in production, the quantity of movies produced annually by Nollywood has declined heavily in recent times.

The African leading movie industry, which used to produce an average of 2,500 movies annually in the 1990s and 2000, is now offering the market less than 1,000 movies annually, at a time the world is expecting the industry to increase production and possibly overtake Bollywood, the largest movie producer in the world.

Currently, Nollywood produces an average of 700 films in a year with about $590 million annual revenue.

The development has also led to the disappearance of DVD as the most popular entertainment content format, while running the once-thriving DVD market, their distributors and producers out of business.

Emeka Onwubuya, CEO, TMT Movies, a movie distribution company, notes that the number of production is down because the trend now is high-budget movie, which gulps huge amount, takes time to produce and often premieres in cinemas or for streaming platforms.

“For you to produce a movie that will show in cinemas or that Netflix will stream on its platform, it has to be quality. The focus has shifted from quantity to quality now and it is impacting production figures,” Onwubuya says.

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Speaking on the development, Kunle Afolayan, CEO, Golden Effects Pictures, and award-wining Nigerian movie producer, decries that Nollywood used to have such figures in the past, but that there is a drastic reduction in the quantity of production in recent times.

According to Afolayan, the quantity of production has declined very much, while the quality, which is the most important, is increasing daily.

“The numbers of production have drastically reduced. The numbers they quoted five years back are not obtainable now,” he states.

Offering reasons for the reduction in the quantity of Nollywood movie production, Magnus Okpi, a movie studio owner, notes that a lot of people are now doing high-end movies. “Since you cannot make a lot of money from DVD, everybody is aspiring to do for cinema and some people are now shooting primarily for YouTube and some are shooting to go to Netflix,” Okpi says.

Okpi also notes that the emergence of streaming platforms, which are now commissioning films, impacted hugely on the business of the traditional producers, who could not cope with the new trend in movie production and especially, distribution.

With the successful acquisition of Genevieve Nnaji’s Lion Heart by Netflix, many filmmakers are now producing for streaming platforms as well as being commissioned now by the platforms to produce movies for them. Moreover, the high quality demanded by the streaming platforms is among the factors reducing the number of movies produced by Nollywood, as quality films take time and a lot to produce, unlike the quick-fix DVD format.

“With Netflix, iRokoTv, Apple Music and other streaming platforms, high-quality movie production and efficient distribution are guaranteed. So, Nigerian storytellers, movie directors and producers are finding it easier and more profitable doing business with the streaming companies than the old order where one man is in charge of everything,” Okpi states further.

For Afolayan, the number of production went down because the movie cartel has disappeared and distribution affected. According to him, a few years back, there was a big cartel in the DVD market with big network, which boosted the distribution across the country and Africa.

“Members of the cartel were not just the distributors, they were also the executive producers of the films. Just as big streaming platforms are now commissioning films, these DVD distributors were the ones commissioning the filmmakers to make films for them and they put them straight on the DVD platform for distribution,” the movie producer explains.

Explaining further, Afolayan notes that the DVD market is no longer relevant, hence impacting quantity of production and hugely affecting the sector.

He notes further that some of the people, who were playing in that space at that time, have decided to upgrade, embrace technology among other production inputs so that their films can be seen in the cinemas.

“If you are shooting high-end film, it is not something you shot in three days like the ones they used to shoot for DVD before; your post-production is not something you just do quick on a computer, you need to do sound, picture grade and all that. So, the talent has changed and this is one of the major reasons the number of production has reduced,” Afolayan says.

Martins Akhime, a creative content producer and record label owner, notes that technology is the major reason for the decline in DVD production, but has also improved the quality of movies from Nigeria.

“Yes, we have noticed the huge decline in the quantity of movies produced by Nollywood, but the global audiences are happy with the huge improvement in the quality of our movies now. We are losing one and gaining another,” Akhime says.

In the same vein, Afolayan notes that technology is playing a big role in the decline of quantity and improvement on the quality of Nollywood movies as well as the shift from shooting movies to music videos by many directors of photography (DOPs).

“When Canon 5D camera came, it took over the entire music video industry. A lot of Nigerian musicians used to go to SA to shoot their music video and some of them used to bring in experts, but when the camera came, it changed the narrative completely and a lot of young DOPs are now turning more towards doing music videos instead of doing feature films,” Afolayan notes.

However, some industry experts think that the number of production will rise again, but not as high as it was in the DVD era.

“Now that everybody is playing, the number will rise again. Some people are shooting specifically for YouTube. I find it very amazing, it is really good and they get advertisers to put their adverts on their products. They are also getting remunerated on these films. So, it is a bit balanced but not what is used to be,” Afolayan states.

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