Distribution as Nollywood’s unfinished business in 2016
Although it is not the first time that a Nigerian movie has smashed box office records, the amount that The Wedding Party (or TWP) has so far earned in less than three weeks in cinemas across the country, is unprecedented in the history of Nollywood. It is true that Ayo Makun (aka AY) smashed box office record twice – first with his 2015 comedy 30 Days in Atlanta, which reportedly raked in over N150 million, and then in 2016, with his second comedy feature Trip to Jamaica, which has so far raked in N175 million. But these figures were earned over a long period of time unlike TWP, which started its box office haul by earning N110 million in just one week of release. This is after it earned N66 million in seven days and N36 million in its opening weekend.
No Nigerian movie in recent history has been this well received. Only films of the celluloid era like Jab Adu’s Bisi: Daughter of the River, Ola Balogun’s Ajani Ogun, films by Chief Hubert Ogunde like Aiye and Ayanmo, films by Chief Adeyemi Afolayan, like Taxi Driver and Ajani Ogun, and more recently films by Ayo Makun, have come close to receiving this level of acceptance. With its current performance, there is no doubt that TWP looks set to be the biggest film ever released in Nigerian and West African cinemas.
An exciting film that features some of Nigeria’s best performers, including Richard Mofe Damijo, Sola Sobowale, Ireti Doyle, Adesua Etomi and Eyinna Nwigwe, the success of TWP, a collaboration between EbonyLife TV, FilmOne and Koga Studios at the cinema, has shown that Nigerians will troop in large numbers to the cinema to see Nollywood films once they are entertaining and they are able to relate with the story. Also, it is proving that the local theatrical window can be a huge contributor and income stream for film financiers. It means that with more cinemas, filmmakers can earn good revenue from the box office. The success of TWP has also shown that the modern cinema space in Nigeria is growing rapidly. Therefore, all that is needed is more of such spaces as more Nigerians clamour to see well-made Nigerian movies.
With less than 30 screens in 2010, when Ije by Chineze Anyaene was released, the figure has risen to about 128 screens in 28 cinemas across the country. Observers are of the opinion that with more screens, extensive promotion and quality productions that excite, it would be possible for a Nollywood film to gross N1 billion at the box office.
President, Association of Movie Producers (AMP), Ralph Nwadike, is excited at the feat the producers of TWP have made with the film.
“It is one of the best news I have heard this year,” he enthused. “It means that producers and investors can actually exploit the theatrical window to their advantage and just use the other windows, including DVD release as jara (extra revenue).”
Although he is happy that the theatrical window has opened up a major income stream for filmmakers, Nwadike canvassed the resuscitation of the DVD market, which he said remains the major source of revenue for the average filmmaker.
“Not all movies will be released in the cinema,” he said. “Some will have to go directly to DVD and even the cinema movies will eventually be released as DVD. So, we need to get that stream working as it used to be in the days of yore if we want revenues from our movies to make sense because there are many Nigerians, who don’t have access to cinema but can afford to buy the DVDs.”
Notable distributor Gab Onyi Okoye spoke in the same vein. Gabosky wants distribution in Nigeria structured in a way that filmmakers can earn more revenue from sales of DVD, just as they are earning monies from other platforms.
According to him: “These films that are doing so well in cinemas will eventually be released as DVD for millions of people who would not have seen them or who want the movies for keeps. How will we sell the movies in this directionless distribution environment?”
Okoye called on the relevant regulatory agency, especially National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB), to quickly address the distribution challenge in the industry.
Indeed, the NFVCB’s inability to address the distribution challenge continues to worsen the fortunes of the industry. Nearly a decade after it was introduced, the distribution framework has failed to yield the desired results. Even those who embraced the policy at inception have turned around to say that the framework has led to the collapse of the industry and has set the industry back by at least a decade. Indeed, things were fairly going well with format even though informally done before the imposition of the distribution regime.