Is Nollywood losing the movie market to Netflix?

With the rise of streaming culture among Nigerian moviegoers and filmmakers, streaming giants like Netflix appear to be taking over the Nigerian film industry in terms of distribution, especially among younger demographics.

Netflix, at its launch in Nigeria, adopted the tagline ‘Nollywood is Home’, and while it may seem like this is a brand looking to appeal to the local market, the platform and others like it are rapidly altering the way movies are distributed. in Niger.

83 percent of the 1,000 Inside Nollywood respondents say they prefer to wait for movies to become available on streaming services because most movies would make it there anyway. In addition, they state that they prefer to buy tickets for Hollywood movies with higher production values.

Young Nollywood filmmakers with the promise of a global audience as a major incentive are more likely to release their films on streaming platforms that follow the rigorous route of campaigning to get their films onto the big screens.

We have also seen streaming platforms looking to enter the Nigerian market by partnering with local studios, for example Netflix partnering with Kunle Afolayan and Mo Abudu’s Ebony life studios and Amazon Prime Video partnering with Niyi’s Anthills studios. Akinmolayan.

Brief history

For many years, Nigeria’s film business was based on home video distribution, plagued by piracy problems and unable to attract even 5 percent of moviegoers. It wasn’t until filmmakers like Kunle Afolayan brought movies worthy of silver screens to Nollywood audiences, starting with his 2014 crime thriller on October 1.

Other films such as Ayo Makun’s ’30 Days in Atlanta’ (2014), its sequel ‘A Trip to Jamaica’ (2016) and Kemi Adetiba’s ‘The Wedding Party (2016) followed suit and ushered in a new genre. of Nigerian blockbusters that paved the way for filmmakers to confidently debut more films in theaters. From 2014 to 2019, the process became simple, from the production of the films to national distribution and intensive marketing.

Due to the rapid expansion of the film industry, this formula created a demand for precise collection of box office receipts, which began in 2018. King of Boys (2018, N231.7 million), Chief Daddy (2018, N387.5 million) , Merry Men 2 (2019, N233.9 million), Sugar Rush (2019, N287 million), and Living in Bondage-breaking Free (2018, N168.8 million) are some examples of previous blockbusters that did well financially. .

At the beginning of 2020, weekend sales for the first quarter of that year were recorded at N888 million, the highest first quarter profit in the last four years, and just as filmmakers were beginning to hit a new record in the movie profits, the Covid-19 pandemic occurred, forcing a global lockdown and giving rise to streaming.

Also read: Netflix secures third partner in quest to scale original African content

Lockdown and the dawn of the streamers

Netflix arrived in February 2020 to the delight of movie fans who couldn’t wait to stop feeling their personal spaces with DVD plates and instead watch a full season of their favorite movie or series at the touch of the button. reproduction for a basic. N2900 monthly plan.

The pandemic brought uncertainty and the Nigerian audience was forced to stay home as the movie business tanked significantly, as did the global economy. Since no one knew for sure when things would return to normal, switching to a streaming service or releasing movies in theaters before selling the rights to streaming services a few months later seemed like a smart business move.

Towards the last quarter of 2020, theaters opened their doors with strict covid restrictions, such as operating at 60 percent capacity, causing films released in that period to struggle financially. However, pandemic fatigue and film fans’ longing to return to their movie routines in full force filled theaters with the 2021 release of Funke Akindele’s Omo Ghetto: The Saga, grossing over N636 million, making it which makes it the highest grossing Nollywood film of all. weather.

The cinema business in 2021 seemed to bounce back from the woes of the pandemic, with total cinema ticket sales over the weekend of the year rising by 100% to 2.4 billion Naira from 1.2 billion Naira in 2020 and Nollywood titles accounted for 39.3% of ticket sales that year. .

Fast-forward to 2022, two years after the lockdown, data shows movie attendance is back to pre-pandemic levels, but people prefer Hollywood titles over local content.

Even though admissions reportedly remained at their typical level during the same period in 2021, Nollywood’s market share in theaters fell to 25.8 percent in the first half of 2022.

Hollywood movies benefited from the slight increase in ticket sales, leaving Nollywood movies competing for an even smaller share of viewers. Despite the steady increase in movie attendance over the previous five years, the decline in 2022 is an all-time low.

Out of more than 1,491,000 tickets sold, Nollywood secured 964,523 in the first half of 2021. In contrast, it only sold 520,656 of the more than 1,498,000 tickets sold in the first half of 2022, a decrease of 46 percent. cent compared to the previous year.

In its third week of release in January 2022, Spiderman: No Way Home, the highest grossing film at the local box office, continued to compete for viewers’ attention with other Nollywood productions because it was still the most popular film of the time. Superstar, Aki & PawPaw and Christmas in Miami were some of the movies.

While new movies struggled to find a niche in which to thrive, the first eight weeks of the year saw theaters continue to play leftover Christmas movies in an effort to get the last of the money they could offer.

In March, ‘Before Valentine’, ‘Dinner at my Place’ and ‘A Simple Lie’ were the only Nollywood films to perform slightly above average with opening week scores of N11.6 million, N17.6 million and N15.2 million, respectively.

As Nollywood’s market share declines, it begs the question of what role streaming services play in the story, as the answer lies in how the audience prioritizes the content they pay for and consume.

The study conducted by Inside Nollywood shows that the audience will first choose the free material, then the paid premium service in the absence of free content, and finally streaming services such as Netflix, which allow password sharing and serve as new pop culture benchmarks for streaming. younger generation.

Audiences are increasingly relying on streaming services to watch Nollywood movies as filmmakers follow the new pattern of premiering their films before transferring them to streaming services. In the long term, this strategy could be a barrier to the film industry, even as filmmakers and stakeholders strive for better returns on investment.

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