In what has been a stellar year for the movie industry in Nigeria, popularly known as Nollywood, the sector has experienced a growth spurt with the industry making an average of N1.72 billion ($100, 000) in 2013 according to analysts. The enhanced production and content quality of Nigerian films indicate the growing professionalism in Nollywood (the Nigerian movie sector) has been directly responsible.
In the last five years, the industry has been growing in terms of quality. Little wonder it has been rated the third most valuable movie industry in the world, behind Hollywood and Bollywood. The development has also impacted on returns.
Just as it has ranked third globally in terms of quality of production, it has grossed revenues that placed it third in the world.
Robert Orya, managing director, Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM), says Nollywood ranks third globally in revenue. According to him, the revenue the film industry has generated in the last three years is between $300 million and $800 million.
“The global film and entertainment industry generated about $90.6 billion revenue in 2010,” Orya explains, saying “the revenue increased to $102.7 billion in 2012. Most of these revenue streams are from theatrical distribution. North America contributed the largest market share of about 40 percent. Europe, Middle East and Africa accounted for 24 percent, Latin America 20 percent, and Asia Pacific made only 3 percent contribution.”
Victor Okhai, film maker, says a new crop of film makers began to bring professionalism into the industry in the past few years, which explains the improvement in the quality of films produced lately. Those who fall into this group include Tunde Kelani with movies like ‘Thunderbolt’ (‘Magun’), Tade Ogidan with ‘Dangerous Twins,’ Richard Mofe Damijo’s ‘Out of Bounds,’ Ego Boyo with ‘30 Days,’ the Amstel Malta Box Office series.
“It is expected that the quality of films will improve,” says Okhai. “We are at a stage where we can no longer play the mediocre. We have discovered that when we attend film festivals, we realised that nobody pays attention to Nollywood films. They look at the industry with disdain at these film festivals. Then local film makers came back home to do some serious work. Many film makers are challenged by what they see at film festivals,” he says.
The year 2013 witnessed the birth of the most expensive film in Nollywood, “Half of a Yellow Sun,” which cost about N1.27 billion ($8m) to make. The movie, an adaptation of Chimanmanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel, “Half of a Yellow Sun,” was shot at Tinapa Film Studio, Cross River State, and in the United Kingdom.
Before ‘Half of a Yellow Sun,’ ‘Tango with Me’ produced by Mahmoud Ali-Balogun, ranked the most expensive film. Shot with the latest Kodak 35mm camera, ‘Tango with Me’ costs over N50 million to make, says Ali-Balogun. In a bid to make a difference in an industry populated by poorly produced films, Balogun travelled to Bulgaria to master film technology. The end product of the trip was an outstanding film that ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ has rivalled.
Industry analysts say the return of the cinemas has offered a veritable platform for film makers to escape the open market that has been largely taken over by pirates. By first showing their movies at the cinemas, film producers are assured of getting returns on their investments. But Okhai observes that this will not be possible with bad production quality.
“Cinemas cannot project poor quality films,” explains Okhai, as “your flaws as a film producer are blown in proportion to the size of the screen. Film makers in the Diaspora are returning home to show how good films are made abroad. Their films are changing the way local film producers are making films.”
Truly, not a few well-produced films have been commercially successful at the cinemas. In 2013, ‘The Meeting’ produced by Mildred Okwo and Afolayan’s ‘Phone Swap’ also recorded huge commercial success. In 2009 for instance, Stephanie Okereke’s movie, ‘Through the Glass,’ premiered at the cinemas making over N10 million. This was followed by Kunle Afolayan’s ‘The Figurine’ becoming the first local film to make over N30 million in the cinemas. Chineze Anyaene’s film, ‘Ije,’ also recorded tremendous success at the cinemas, making over N57 million and viewed by an estimated 14,000 people. In 2010, ‘Ije’ was reputed to be Nigeria’s highest selling movie in the cinemas, returning to the cinemas three times that year. Its success was next to Hollywood’s ‘Avatar.’ ‘Anchor Baby’ produced by Lonzo Nzekwe also made over N17 million.
In a report, the United Nations Educational, Science and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) stated that the Nigerian film industry produces more than 2,400 films per year. This figure places Nollywood ahead of the United State’s Hollywood and behind India’s Bollywood. However, a CNN 2013 report shows that Nollywood is worth US$250 million producing 200 home videos monthly.
The commercial viability of the film industry prompted President Goodluck Jonathan to make available an additional sum of N3billion as grant to the film industry. The grant is to be supervised by the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo -Iweala and Minister of culture, tourism and national orientation, Edem Duke. The grant tagged “Project Nollywood” was commissioned in the first week of April. In addition, the Akwa-Ibom state governor, Godswill Akpabio donated the sum of 50 million naira to the industry as the President’s award for creativity.
However, industry practitioners say the prospect for Nollywood is huge in 2014 if government can adequately curb piracy that has been plaguing it for more than twenty years.
“The issue of piracy and infrastructure,” says Amaka Igwe, filmmaker, “which the President promised to look into must be taken seriously for Nollywood to thrive. We cannot afford to continue with this trend at all. We must be able to get return on our investments as practitioners in the industry.”
The industry has reasons to celebrate as encapsulated by the string of events that were part of the Nollwood@20 celebration which attracted the crème de la crème of the movie industry in Nigeria. With the positives in the outgoing year, it can only get better in 2014.