Nollywood, the Nigerian film industry, is one of the most prolific and influential in the world. It emerged in the late 1980s and early 1990s when filmmakers began producing low-budget films using video cameras and VCRs. Since then, it has grown rapidly and diversified, producing films in various genres and formats thanks to innovation and evolving strategies. Some of the strategies that helped Nollywood achieve its early success have resurfaced in recent times, but it remains to be seen whether they will yield the same results.
Relying on cinema-only releases
One of these strategies is depending on cinema-only releases for films. Cinema has been an essential revenue generator for the film industry. However, in recent times, Nigeria’s cinema industry has struggled to stay afloat due to several factors, including piracy, poor infrastructure, and the rise of streaming platforms. From 2019 to 2022, the Cinema Exhibitors Association of Nigeria recorded a 28.7% reduction year-over-year.
One reason for this decline is the country’s economic state. In times of economic crisis, people often forgo their wants and focus on their needs. This means they will leave out things they deem non-essential, such as going to the cinema. They may also wait for a wider release of the film, which will be cheaper. For example, in February 2023, when Nigeria experienced economic turbulence due to a cash crunch, cinema sales dropped.
Another reason cinemas have struggled to stay afloat is the competition from streaming platforms, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Showmax. These platforms offer a cheaper and more convenient alternative to cinema-going for many Nigerians. They provide a wider variety of content and genres, catering to different tastes and preferences on a subscription basis. Some filmmakers sign deals to sell their movies to streaming platforms once the movie is out of the cinema. This strategy can help filmmakers reach a larger and more global audience. Some Nigerian filmmakers have opted to release their films directly on these platforms, bypassing the cinema altogether. For example, Editi Effiong’s latest movie “The Black Book” was released exclusively on Netflix. Depending on cinemas during economic uncertainties was too much of a risk for a movie that cost a million dollars to produce.
Replicating successful models
Another strategy some filmmakers have overused in recent times is replicating successful formulas without adding much value or originality to their films. Some filmmakers tend to follow the trend of making sequels or franchises based on previously successful releases, without considering whether they have something new or different to offer to the audience.
In the early 2000s, this was a very popular strategy among Nollywood filmmakers. This was a viable strategy at the time, as films were distributed at very low prices. However, as the industry grew and matured, audiences have become more discerning and demanding. Consequently, sequels and franchises that are poorly executed or lack originality can lead to audience fatigue and dissatisfaction, damaging the reputation of the industry. An example is Kemi Adetiba’s King of Boys, which was a hit at the box office in 2018 but received mixed reviews for its sequel, which was released as a series on Netflix in 2021. The sequel was criticized for being too long, too predictable, and too reliant on star power. Some viewers felt that the story had lost its charm and appeal after the first instalment.
Filmmakers need to constantly explore new ways to showcase their creativity and innovation, even with existing franchises. It may require investing more in quality production, and values, or it could be as simple as seeking feedback from their audience and critics to influence their next release. Whichever way, it has become necessary to get with the times and avoid strategies that can hurt their films and the industry at large. Filmmakers need to balance strategies to optimize their revenue potential and audience reach.