Monday, 20 May 2013
Resuscitating Nollywood By Toyin Dawodu
Filmmakers in Nigeria are sitting on a goldmine. Nollywood, as the Nigerian film industry is commonly called, is at a pivotal point in its growth. What steps can be taken to rebuild Nollywood as a global force in the film industry?
Hollywood versus Nollywood by the numbers
The American film industry (Hollywood) is the leader in delivering cinematic experience to audiences in a way that produces big bucks at the box office. In 2012, the American Movie Industry produced 655 movies shown in more than 8,000 theatres, generating $10.7 billion in box office revenue. About 1.3 billion movie tickets were sold at an average price of $7.9 per ticket. This number does not include video distribution or other licensing income.
Nollywood ranks second in the total number of movies released (though I was unable to verify the exact number of films released with the censors board). In 2012, the highest-grossing Nollywood movie, Ije, brought in $473,000. The highest grossing Hollywood movie in 2012 was Marvel’s The Avengers. With a budget of $222 million, it opened across 4,347 theatres and brought in $623 million in the U.S and another $888 million worldwide.
So-called “big budget” Nigerian movies incur less than $20,000 in costs per film. A recent report in one Nigerian newspaper stated that only a few Nigerian lead actresses earn more than $3,000 per movie. To put this in perspective, Ije, which coincidentally is Nollywood’s highest-grossing movie of all time generated only 2.8% of what the average, humdrum Hollywood film makes and it earned only 0.03% of what Hollywood's highest-grossing movie generates."
Part of the problem is the disparity in the production quality between Nigerian-made movies and Hollywood movies. Movie goers have come to expect a certain standard for feature films. This problem goes hand-in-hand with a larger issue that is prevalent in the Nigerian film industry, namely the ability to implement the strategy used by Hollywood to generate revenue – pushing box office sales.
Nigeria has a shortage of profitable distribution channels. There are fewer than 50 movie theaters in Nigeria serving a population of 160 million potential patrons. This coupled with the low production quality forces many investors and producers to bypass theatre releases altogether in an attempt to quickly recoup their investment from DVD or VCD sales. That doesn’t work. As an investor who has underwritten Hollywood and Nollywood projects, I know the ability to profit from your investment is what keeps you investing.
In the last 5 years I have invested over $500,000 in two Nigerian movies. "30 DAYS” was shot in Lagos and Abuja and stars Genevieve Nnaji, Segun Arinze and Joke Silva. “CLOSE ENEMIES" was shot in Hollywood and starring Kate Henshaw and Zak Orji. I have not yet recouped my investment and I am willing to wait. I went into the film industry armed with a warning from a close friend who has worked as a Hollywood producer for more than 25 years. “You only get into the movie business for two reasons,” he said to me. “Either you want to lose money, or you have a story to tell.”
So here is my question: How can we keep Nollywood profitable?
Understand that when Nollywood started, the majority of the original pioneers and financiers were traders-turned-investors. This distinction is significant because investors look at returns over a period of time while traders calculate the amount of profit to be immediately derived from their merchandise. The first Alaba traders that financed the advent of Nollywood were not concerned about the long-term residual income that could be generated by owning stake (copy rights) in the intellectual property of film. Their goal was to quickly recoup their initial investment and they did that by selling DVDs and VCDs of complete films. By foregoing the box office, Nollywood has eliminated a primary source of revenue for investors to recoup their money. Today, Nigerian studios produce films that are treated as retail goods with a short shelf life instead of as portfolio items that require long-term investment.
Onward and upward
We first need to recognize that in order for Nigeria’s film industry to compete globally, we have to do what is necessary to leverage the tried and true business model the Hollywood film industry has been using for years to dominate the market. That means more theatres. Since the most recognized professionals in the industry are the actors, it is incumbent upon the Actors’ Guild to fight for the resources that will strengthen the industry and push the government into creating policies that can foster growth. If Nigeria has 1,000 theatres instead of 50 theatres, the next big box office smash can generate $40.7 million instead of $473,000.
If the Nigerian movie industry is to attract serious investors and international movie producers, we need to build the infrastructure. One of the goals of my organization is to invest in the future of Nollywood by building studios and theaters.
Toyin Dawodu is the Chairman of TLI-Media One, a California based Production and Entertainment Company, email@example.com. Or follow me @1amazingtoyin