Funke Akindele: Inside 'A Tribe Called Judah's' N1 Billion+ Climb
The story, like Akindele’s other record-breaking projects, is simple and family-oriented, with a lot of heart. Here's how it impacted the cinemas in 2023.
Filmmaker and actress, Funke Akindele currently holds the record for the top three highest-grossing Nollywood films — Omo Ghetto: The Saga, Battle on Buka Street and now, A Tribe Called Judah.
She also holds the record for the first Nollywood film to hit N1bn in the cinemas. The record was only previously held by Black Panther: Wakanda Forever which hit the milestone in January 2023.
The filmmaker has built a large following over the years with a career spanning over two decades. Despite this and the assurance that her fans will show up for projects, Akindele visibly works hard to beat her own records.
A Tribe Called Judah tells the story of a single mother, Jedidah Judah (Akindele), who has five sons from five different fathers from five different tribes. The first two sons are responsible and try their best to work and support their mother.
Meanwhile, the last three are less helpful; Pere (Timini Egbuson) is a chronic pickpocket, Shina (Tobi Makinde), a hoodlum and tout in the community, and the last, Ejiro (Olumide Oworu), is naughty and only cares about his girlfriend, Testimony (Genoveva Umeh). Despite their bad behavior, Jedidah continues to support them and get them out of trouble. Things take a turn when she falls sick and her sons plan a heist to save her.
The story, like Akindele’s other record-breaking projects, is simple and family-oriented, with a lot of heart. In the cinemas, audiences cheered, cried, and laughed at different points with scenes perfectly choreographed to draw emotions. Good cinema makes people feel in ways that they need to actively have conversations about, and this film gives people that with a lot of clarity.
There are no ambiguities about the story, why certain scenes and dialogues made the cut, and why production decisions were taken. The audience could think through and follow the film as it unfolded. It was also made easier by a stellar cast with every member bringing their best to the table.
Akindele has spent years building audience trust and shows with each outing that she cares enough to do better for them. She has brought a co-director on for her recent projects, each bringing their own artistic elements into the project, covering possible lapses for Akindele who is often very hands-on in other parts of the production. She co-directed Omo Ghetto: The Saga with JJC Skills, Battle on Buka Street with Tobi Makinde, and A Tribe Called Judah with Adeoluwa Owu.
The Box Office Climb
As of January 6, 2024, A Tribe Called Judah had made ₦1.035M in the cinemas after spending only 21 days with 279,929 admissions and an average ticket price of ₦3,699. The movie premiered on December 15, 2023, and made ₦113.27M in its opening weekend.
By the second weekend, it had only a 4.7 per cent drop compared to the opening weekend and made ₦108.8M with a flash cumulative gross of ₦403.7M. That week, it joined the group of films in Nigerian cinemas that had grossed more than ₦376.8M in the first two weeks. The other projects are; Wakanda Forever (2022) at ₦499.63M, SpiderMan: No Way Home (2021) at ₦475.72M, and Avengers: Endgame (2019) at ₦407.01M.
In less than three weeks, A Tribe Called Judah, with 231,053 admissions, surpassed admission records of blockbusters such as Sugar Rush (229,060) and King of Boys (220,565) which had 13-week run and 17-week run at the box office, respectively.
In the third week, the film grossed a cumulative ₦419.9M with over 111,200 people coming to see it, and it became the 15th highest-grossing Nollywood film of all time. It set the record on Christmas Day as the biggest single-day gross in Nigerian cinema history and earned over ₦728M as of 30th December, 2023.
The film consistently performed at very high, never-before-seen levels in the cinemas grossing ₦55M - ₦75M a day during the holiday week. It also earned the highest-ever admissions for a movie outside its opening week in the same period.
It quickly shot through to the fore, growing over ₦132.83M by its fourth weekend with a 25 per cent drop from the third weekend. As of January 12, A Tribe Called Judah made over ₦1.17bn.
A Closer Look at the Film’s Marketing
Akindele is the glue that holds the marketing of her films. She understands that her constant appearance in promotion materials reinforces the validity of the projects.
There was an added layer in the promotion of A Tribe Called Judah. She maximised her star power by getting other stars involved in the marketing, with each video or post targeting a specific audience demographic.
Read more about the film’s impact in the latest edition of our journal, The Industry #3. Download to read our analyses on what the audience is watching and the performance reviews of all major streamers — Netflix, Showmax and Prime Video — currently in Nigeria.