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Is The Nigerian Box Office Dying A Slow And Painful Death?
The Nigerian box office announced a profit in 2022 but the numbers are more than meets the eyes. What really happened and how did Funke Akindele save the day again?
The Nigerian box office raked in N6.94 billion in 2022, a 31.7 per cent year on year increase in sales compared to 2021 numbers. This, however, is not much cause for celebrations as it does not tell the full story.
While the industry made more money than it has ever made in cinema history, the number of cinema consumers have remained the same since 2020 as the sector is yet to regain pre-pandemic admission numbers.
Nigerian box office admissions and revenues were on a steady rise pre-pandemic, which peaked in 2019 shortly before the pandemic. In the two years before the lockdown, cinemas made N5.98 billion in 2018 and N6.4 billion in 2019.
Despite the growth, the box office had its issues with its overdependence on foreign films to scale and the low trust audiences held for Nollywood productions.
Just as the cinemas sank in 2020, Netflix made its grand entry into the Nigerian market, giving filmmakers, talents and the audience access opportunities they could not refuse.
To the filmmakers, they found access to choice which led to the scramble to get their films on Netflix and lesser bottlenecks. For years, they had complained about the cinema earnings splitting culture and the strain of driving the marketing machine while exhibitors made profits without doing much. The exhibitors have argued that the provision of infrastructure was enough risk they had undertaken but the talents and audiences are exploring the benefits of digital infrastructure — streaming.
A streaming platform is usually able to pay between $40, 000 and $300, 000 depending on several factors including the pedigree of the filmmaker, the potential impact of the project, the type of project, the countries where said projects will be available, the duration of the lisence and the negotiating power of a content aggregator.
A lot of acquired films usually fall in the mid-point ($120,000 - &150, 000) for high end projects. It is a one-time easy payment that does not need to be split into as many ways as the money that comes from the cinema.
With streaming, Nollywood talents have “gone global” without doing the crazy work of travelling across the country to promote their films, thus missing out on other filming opportunities. For the audience, the convenience of sitting in their homes to try a Nollywood film is further increased by the freedom to stop watching halfway without feeling like a lot of money and time was lost.
These are not new issues and Inside Nollywood has consistently published research on them. They are global realities. Global cinema box office revenue weighed in at $26 billion in 2022, a healthy 27 per cent improvement compared with 2021, but still a long way short of pre-pandemic levels.
In its final estimate of the full year to Dec. 31, 2022, research firm Gower Street Analytics calculated that global gross box office takings reached $25.9 billion. That compared with $21.4 billion in 2021. The 2022 number is 35 per cent below the 2017-19 average in the three years before COVID-19 upended the global film industry.
COVID changed the movie business and while other box office territories are pushing multi-faceted efforts to bring the people back, the Nigerian box office is leaning on Hollywood flicks and the efforts of select Nollywood film makers. Some things are not working.
Nollywood’s market share in the cinemas grew from 30.2 per cent in 2018 to 40 percent in 2019, the highest it has ever been with the rest going to foreign films. At the time, exhibitors attributed the loss of home advantage to the number of big budget Nollywood films produced and projected that as film budgets and productions increased, the industry would dominate the box office.
Nollywood did win in 2022 but not in the box office. What areas did the industry dominate and what are the lessons?
Download the February 2023 edition of The Industry to get answers and more data on doing business in Nollywood.