The Bottlenecks in Cinema Film Production Business and the Agony of Nigerian Filmmakers
-By Seunmanuel Faleye
The news media is replete with fascinating headlines and pleasant narratives about the Nigerian Film Industry. The story has been told of how Nigeria’s Nollywood has metamorphosed into the second largest film industry in the world, per volume of productions released yearly, behind Bollywood (India) and ahead of Hollywood (USA).
This glamourized status was attained by the industry, thanks to a sect of artistically inclined individuals, whom the contemporary filmmakers have come to appreciate as pathfinders, who laid the founding blocks, of what has come to be appreciated today, as the structured, yet not so structured industry, that we now pride ourselves to have, to the envy of the world. Back then, these veterans were simply driven by talents, and their artistic poise.
We have also read gratuitously aggrandizing testimonials of how after Crude Oil, Nollywood is the country’s biggest export of all time, to the rest of the world. Thanks to efficient global distribution matrixes, and, digitalization, surely, our movies have served as a veritable conduit through which our cultural values, arts and realities have been exported to the global scene.
After our Agricultural Sector, Nollywood has been benchmarked as the highest employer of the country’s labor population. The industry provides employment to more than a million people, either as direct labor, or overhead. Across Nigeria, not less than 1000 filmmakers are on locations weekly filming different production titles.
Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) Report, in the fourth quarter of 2018, revealed a growth by 2.38%, which represents an increase of 0.27% points when compared to the fourth quarter of 2017, which recorded a growth rate of 2.11%.
While I will not attempt to bore you with figures, the crux of my drift with these numbers is that Nigeria’s economy which is classified broadly, into the, Oil and Non-Oil sectors, has Nollywood as a performer in the Non-Oil sector, including, information and Communication, Transportation and Storage, Agriculture and Manufacturing.
These facts, further, lends credence to the significance of Nigeria’s homegrown motion picture industry to the nation’s economy. However, there is a room for improvement.
With the conspicuous profile credited to the budding industry, with the even inestimable prospects, it remains a paradox, that there abound numerous bottlenecks that more than a few practitioners in the industry deal with.
The average filmmaker that depends solely on their filmmaking trade in Nollywood, cannot boast of a standard of living that measures up to the work they do. For a fact, the average filmmaker that leads a fancy life has other source of income that fuel their lifestyle.
Lamenting about the deteriorating state of the movie industry, and how practitioners live from hand to mouth, veteran producer, Zik Zulu explained: “Cost of everything is going up in this country, only in Nollywood you find everything about the producer’s revenues going down.
“It is a tragedy. At home now the producer is struggling to smile with his family. Meanwhile his works keep the world smiling and having fun with their own families.
“If I depended only on Nollywood to earn a living I would have long come close to committing suicide. Nollywood is in distress. Producers are dying of hunger, of hypertension due to heavy debts from rent, school fees and even chop money.” Zulu remarked bitterly.
Of all traditional channels of distributing film contents, Cinema Exhibition remains the diciest. Figures in that terrain are not fixed. A producer with a previous box-office hit could produce next content with poor exhibition round. However, there are only a few ‘bigwigs’ that have stayed on top of the chart year in year out.
The interrogation of this piece, and the question it seeks to answer is that, does it not amount to a fallacy of hasty generalization, to assert that Nollywood is successful, when among hundreds of above average filmmakers, with tens of them quarterly churning out movie titles that struggle to have good rounds in the cinema, yet, only four names (or maybe two more) have yearly continued to hold sway when they release their films.
These few names have their niche seasons; there is the one that holds down the Cinema at summer, there’s another that has carved a niche around Christmas/New Year festive season. While another holds sway during Easter. In that pattern, they spread through the year, churning out releases during national holidays and other strategic periods in the year. Forget about releasing your film when these names show up in the cinema. The frenzy around their work overshadows other films that share their release periods.
Between 2012 and 2018, the titles that have ranked top are The Wedding Party (December 2016), & The Wedding Party2 (December 2018), distributed by FilmOne Distribution, with Gross Box Office earnings of N453, 000,000 and N433,197,377 respectively.
Also on this list are titles such as Chief Daddy (December 2018), N236, 331, 868, Merry Men (September 2018), N235,200,000, King of Boys (October 2018), N231,883, 061, A Trip To Jamaica (September 2016), N180,264,964.
Others are 10 Days In Sun City (June 2017), N176,705, 699, 30 Days In Atlanta (October 2014), N163, 351, 300, Isoken (June 2017), N93, 697, 726, Okafor’s Law (March 2017), N89, 740, 576.
In Nollywood, the average ranges expended in making cinema standard movies are between 80 million to 100million naira for the big budgets, 25 million to 35 million naira for the moderate budgets, while, 10 million to 20 million are spent on low budget productions. A few productions even lower than 10M sneak into the cinemas every now and then, but more often than not, they usually get poor reviews, and most times, bad outings.
Producers of these average films lament that they don’t get enough showing screens by exhibitors across the country for their films, they don’t get good showing times too, imagine a movie showing twice daily, and both time of showing are 10am and 4pm in the middle of the week. Meanwhile another title has more than four showing slots daily, with not less than four showing screens for each show, at peak periods.
Across Nigeria, as of the end of 2018, the total number of sites of cinemas are 43, number of screens are 173, with 18,499 seats. Projections in 2019 , suggests that there might be seven new openings, with additional 37 new screens and 946 new seats for viewers in the country.
There is the foul cry from film producers about the sharing formulae exhibitors offer them. Usually, the sharing ratio is 70/30%. Content exhibitors and distributors get 70%, while the content producer receives 30%. Meanwhile, the producer bears other costs summer up under logistics, usually around 1.5M, he provides all hard drives that is transported nationwide to all cinemas where the film is showing, he still bears the cost for media publicity for the film, yet they get the ant ratio on the sharing table, while the other parties carry the elephant share. We should also bear in mind that tax deductions are also part of part of his deficits.
With all these deductions, how much then does an investor make as ROI, what is the net profit, what is the producers take home. Frankly, their take home is nothing compared to the efforts, creativity, time and energy the dissipate on these productions.
Award winning filmmaker, Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen, airing his opinion said: “It’s not been easy around here. Where you cannot call an artiste for a movie role and expect them to be reasonable to the reality on ground and call price that sounds unbelievable.
They are totally indifferent to fact that sales has gone down completely across board Cinemas, DVD sales is dead ,VOD sales almost gone, African Magic and others na beg nowadays.”
When these complaint are juxtaposed against the success stories of Nollywood in the news, then you would agree that those successes are simply cosmetic. Until these or other issues of concern to practitioners are addressed, Nollywood remains a diamond in the rough, and an undiscovered diamond will not appeal to anyone, until it is thoroughly wiped clean.