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The Nigerian film industry, commonly known as Nollywood, is a thriving space that not only provides an avenue for entertainment but also generates a sizeable amount of revenue for the Nigerian economy.
In 2018, the arts, entertainment and recreation industry represented 0.21% of Nigeria’s GDP at a value of nearly N270 billion. In the first quarter of 2019, the industry garnered approximately N87 billion which accounted for 0.27% of the country’s GDP. The Nigerian box office also contributes significant value; in 2017, N4.3 billion was realized and is expected to grow to an estimated N6.4 billion by 2022.
The relevance of the entertainment industry, of which movie production is a subset, cannot be ignored. Notwithstanding its monetary contribution, the industry currently employs over 1 million people, making it one of Nigeria’s largest employers, after agriculture. Its capacity to employ a large number of people has been applauded by the World Bank, acknowledging the job creation potential of Nollywood.
Nollywood was ranked as the world’s second-largest movie industry by volume, behind India’s Bollywood. With a high production capacity, the industry has enabled the spread of movies across Africa as well as to Africans in the diaspora. In 2013, Nollywood produced over 1,800 movies with the cost of producing each movie ranging between N 4.9 and N13.9 million.
The craftsmanship of players in the Nigerian film industry has also received recognition. Actress and producer, Omotola Jalade Ekeinde was acknowledged as one of TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people, alongside other world-renowned personalities like Beyoncé and the former first lady of America, Michelle Obama.
Nigeria’s multilingualism has also added to the industry’s success and contributed to the diversity in film production. Films are acted and produced in different languages, ranging from English, Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa to other indigenous languages. Consequently, the Hausa speaking people of Nigeria also have a thriving film industry known as Kannywood.
Irrespective of the global performance of the industry and revenue generated from movie production in Nigeria, the income earned by the average Nollywood actor/actress is relatively low, ranging from N199,000 to N597,000 per film. Nevertheless, some of the industry’s players continue to thrive, with the recognition and appreciation of Nigerian movies worldwide.
Nollywood actress and producer Genevieve Nnaji recently received global commendation with the production of “Lion Heart” which was bought by Netflix. This is the first Nollywood movie to be acquired by an American movie streaming company and is seen as one of the best things to happen to Nollywood in recent times.
Another notable player is producer and CEO of Ebony Life TV, Mo Abudu. Her TV production company created the romantic comedy-drama “Wedding Party 1 & 2”, which became the highest-grossing title movie of all time in the Nigerian film industry. Wedding Party 2 garnered N73.3 million in its opening weekend – December 15, 2017 – beating Star Wars: The Last Jedi in Nigerian cinemas. By the first week of 2018, it had grossed over N300 million at the box office. The movie was premièred in over 15 African countries as well as the United Kingdom where it recorded the largest single-day opening of N 7.9 million for a film produced in Nollywood. Wedding Party 1& 2 were directed by acclaimed directors Kemi Adetiba and Niyi Akinmola, respectively.
Notably, the Nigerian movie industry is supported by different personalities, who bring cultural diversity, creativity and panache, that have led to its growth and evolution.
The success of movie production worldwide can be partly attributed to the increase in digital platforms. iROKOtv, often referred to as the Netflix of Africa and other popular platforms like ShowMax and Kwese have helped in the distribution and provision of streaming video-on-demand services. iRokotv pays filmmakers approximately N3.6 to 9 million for the exclusive right to stream their movies for a certain period of time. Its role as an effective distribution channel for movies cannot be underestimated as it has a global audience of over 5 million people in 150 countries and a catalogue of over 5,000 Nollywood films.
The increase in the number of movies shown at the cinemas has also increased the industry’s reach. Unfortunately, piracy is a major challenge and reportedly, for every legitimate copy sold in Nigeria, nine get pirated.
It is clear that Nollywood has a positive impact on the Nigerian economy as it generates large revenue and is also a major employer of labour. Its movies have also garnered international recognition thereby creating a formidable presence in the global stage. Although the industry is plagued with limitations such as low-income earning capacity of its actors and piracy of movies, however, the resilience of its players have earned the industry international repute and innovative digital platforms such as iRoko have used the internet to stimulate the growth of the industry by facilitating piracy-free movie distribution. The industry is thriving and is not resting on its laurels. Its success lies in its key players and their innovative capacity.