When next you go to the cinema, I want you look around at the people beside you on the queue, really watch out for what movies they are asking to see. You will find that over seventy percent of the people that go to the cinema in Nigeria are there to see Hollywood and sometimes bollywood movies. Until the year 2016, the highest grossing Nollywood movie was 1992’s mortal inheritance starring Omotola Jalade Ekehinde.
Which means when big budget Hollywood movies like The Avengers, Batman vs Superman, Avatar and co grossed tens of millions of dollars, in the west African market, movies like ‘Thirty Days In Atlanta’ and ‘The Wedding Party’ were throwing record breaking parties for crossing the one million dollars mark worldwide.
Okay fine, I know it’s not a fair comparison but I think we can agree on the fact that it doesn’t make any sense for Hollywood movies to make ten times more money in a market that should naturally and rightfully so, be dominated by Nollywood movies.
Mind blowing isn’t it? its like Mai Atafo designing Kunbi’s wedding dress! I’m not saying that’s what happened, but imagine if it did.
I remember the weekend the James Bond movie Spectre premiered in Nigeria, a very popular cinema in Nigeria, held a premiere party in lagos, inviting the likes of Omotola Jalade and spending so much money celebrating a movie they had no business whatsoever celebrating, I really doubt they do that for Nollywood movies.
In my previous article I spoke on lack of international recognition from critiques for Nollywood, this article is on the lack of local recognition for Nollywood movies. You see, you can’t sell a product you don’t believe in, it’s as simple as that. Nobody can be the champion of something they don’t love. So before we try to sell Nollywood to the world, I think we should start by believing in what we are selling.
In my honest opinion, the reason Nollywood is not where it is meant to be, is something I like to call the Nigerian factor. I remember my parents telling me of their youth and how they used to go out to the cinema to watch plays some thirty, forty years ago. And then I asked what happened? Why do people no longer go to the cinema to watch Nollywood movies? They didn’t have the answer at the time. But now I realized that some twenty years ago, a sect of filmmakers who saw filmmaking as a business and not an art decided that It will be more profitable to make direct to home video movies instead of showing them in the cinema’s, little did they know that they were unconsciously kick starting piracy in the Nigerian movie industry. See in the bid to make more money, they forgot to realize, that giving just about anybody access to a hard copy of their movie was also giving them the power to re-create as many copies of that movie as possible.
Suddenly more people caught on and piracy became the order of the day, the movie industry became a mess and just as quickly, the audience lost all interest in their constantly recycled stories because the vision of the film makers was obviously as short as the two to three weeks it took them to recycle an old story, and to shoot and release it as a new movie. You see the original plan was to make more money, and when they found themselves losing so much more than they gained, they became desperate. So desperate in fact that they began to reminisce and miss the old days, they days when people paid so much money to go to the cinema’s and see Nigerian Movies at it’s best. But it was almost too late because while they were out playing the piracy game, the majority of the Nigerian audience and film goers had turned and focused all their attention to movies that were much more thought out, with more vision and far more exciting and entertaining stories to tell. They turned to Hollywood movies for excitement and entertainment, and Bollywood movies for heart touching and warming stories.
Suddenly Nollywood began to fight their way back into the Cinemas, needing so much for Nigerians to take them seriously once more. But still they have managed to win back only a minority of their audience. But they’ve done so much work, you might say, why is it still a struggle for them to make box office success you might ask? Well although they might have gotten back their purpose, they still see movie making as a business. They still recycle Hollywood stories and try to feed it to their audience like it’s one of the wonders of the world, when what they fail to realize is that nobody wants a cheap knock off, when they can get the real deal.
And that is why the most successful Nollywood movies are the ones that tell everyday Nigerian stories, stories that resonate with the Nigerian audience. Take Thirty Days In Atlanta, The Wedding Party, October 1, The Figurine only to mention a select few, but just take these movies as a case study and learn from them and maybe in the next five to ten years, the highest grossing movie in the Nigerian box office history will be a Nollywood movie, a true Nigerian movie that tells a story every Nigerian wants to see, so much so that they would choose it over “Mission Impossible 10” or whatever Hollywood blockbuster is on the screens ten years from now.