The Nigerian movie industry saw an increase in streaming services in 2022, with Netflix and Amazon Prime Video coming into the market in the quest to promote original local content to a wider audience.
Other local streamers were not left behind as Showmax followed behind to give customers as much content both locally and internationally as they could to keep their growing customers satisfied. Original contents such as ‘Big Brother Naija’ and ‘The Real Housewives of Lagos’ are examples of original content made locally, which in turn led to a rise in subscribers for Showmax.
The year also saw the wave of non-English content as forerunners of the Nollywood industry both theatrically and on streaming services. Kunle Afolayan’s ‘Anikulapo’, Femi Adebayo’s ‘King of Thieves’ and Mo Abudu’s ‘Eleshin Oba’, which are all predominantly non-English titles, almost made it to the International Feature Film Award category of the Oscars.
Here are things that could change Nollywood in 2023:
Femi Odugbemi, filmmaker and founder of Zuri24 Media, told BusinessDay that Nollywood would be exploring more institutional opportunities in 2023. As soon as streaming services entered the Nollywood market in 2022, producers no longer had to worry about finding funding for their films, which gave them the confidence to launch franchises based on their movies and even consider turning them into series.
“These opportunities are going to spread, not just in contemporary Nollywood franchises but also in the Asaba movies and non-English Nollywood films. 2023 will be the year where we see an institutionally driven Nollywood, where its income streams are verifiable and where you can put together a streaming plan that is based on hard figures,” he said.
Odugbemi said the streaming services are helping Nollywood build important brands and those brands become the pillars of the industry and attract the kind of investments that give younger filmmakers the kind of trust and potential for them to keep working.
He said there would be a quantum leap in the quality control capacity of Nollywood as the industry is starting to see the result of having film festivals. Last year, the African Film Festival (AFRIFF) saw Hollywood professionals come in to participate in activities such as panel sessions where ideas were shared to scale the industry to the next level. The festival also opened with the press conference and African movie premiere of Marvel’s ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’, which was the first time a blockbuster Hollywood film will have such a presence on African soil.
Representations at global festivals
In 2023, Nigerian filmmaker CJ ‘Fiery’ Obasi made history as his film, ‘Mami Wata’, was listed as an official selection of the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, which is among the top 5 film festivals in the world. ‘Mami Wata’ is the first film by a Nigerian-based filmmaker to be showcased at the festival and will screen in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition at the 2023 edition of the festival. The annual film festival will take place in Salt Lake City, Utah, in the United States from the 19th to the 29th of January, 2023.
According to sources, there will be a trend of Nollywood films appearing in at least one of the top five film festivals like Toronto, Venice, Cannes, Berlin, and of course Sundance.
In the past couple of years, with the help of platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime, complaints of poor cinematography and sound in movies have become a thing of the past for the big screens as the partnerships with local studios by these platforms have fostered the opportunity to learn from the best and replicate in movies made locally.
Ojie Imoloame, a film producer and an executive member of the Film Rat Club, said: “We will see more investment in underdeveloped genres like crime, action, sci-fi, sports, and indigenous films due to the success of ‘Brotherhood’, ‘King of Thieves’, ‘Blood Sisters’, ‘Anikulapo’ and ‘Far From Home’.”
Distribution and exhibition
As Nollywood producers are striving to ramp up the revenue made at the box office, and distribution is key. History is set to be made as Ryan Cooglers’ ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ looks set to hit the N1 billion mark.
“Our distribution will go beyond streaming. Cinema distribution is also receiving investments. If we look at the number of movie premieres organised by Filmone last year, one would understand that we are beginning to get a footprint in terms of developing a homegrown system of cinema that is connected and franchise-driven and provides return on investment,” Odugbemi said.
This year, ‘Ijakumo: The Born Again Stipper’ by Toyin Abraham and ‘Battle on Buka Street’ will be released, both getting international releases in 11 cities in the United States and four cities in the United Kingdom. Also, ‘Brotherhood’ by Greoh Studios, which became the biggest Nollywood film at the box office in 2022, was released in 12 African countries that same year. 2023 will also bring in a culture of premiering Nollywood films abroad to get Nigerians in the diaspora to promote the films to more views.
“As international appetite grows for Nollywood films, we expect continued growth in SVOD and other platforms. There will also be a growth of distribution startups to mop up the growing demand for Nollywood content globally,” Imoloame added.
Odugbemi urged the government to resurrect mobile theatres that would serve both urban and rural residents and construct cinemas in rural regions that are affordable for locals to use.
As film festivals in Nigeria are getting internationally recognised, there is a tendency that films that are screened at these festivals such as AFRIFF are going to get worldwide recognition. Also with the opportunities streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime bring, talents would be recognised by global brands that will be willing to invest more than ever in 2023.
In 2022, Jimmy Odukoya starred in ‘The Woman King’, which was among the most critically acclaimed films of 2022. Akin Omotoso, a Nigerian film director, writer, and actor, directing the 2022 film ‘Rise, which is based on the true story of Nigerian-Greek NBA star and 2021 finals MVP winner, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and his two brothers, Thanasis and Kostas.
“All of these widen opportunities; many of our people are going to connect with international artists, filmmakers, and performers. It’s going to be a good year, not just in how much money the movies make but in actual infrastructural, substantial and institutional development,” Odugbemi added.
With more international collaboration and representations by old and new talents, Imoloame said talent representation will be on the rise, which will birth the growth of legal agencies and management firms as there will be more complex contractual obligations of the talent.
Read also: Top five events that shaped Nollywood in 2022
Education and talent development
“What you see now is that our chain reaction is positive. There is now institutionalised training everywhere.” Odugbemi said.
Last year, BusinessDay took a deeper look into the rise of film academies in Nigeria and the opportunities they brought in for both new and younger talents in the industry to learn more about their craft, which in turn led to better cinematography and acting in the Nollywood films.
Imoloame said that in 2023, there would be more focus on skills development and possibly more creative startups to supply globally skilled talent to the marketplace.
Odugbemi said that with the rise of successful young talents coming out in the industry, parents are pushing their children to learn in academies. “There is an academy or acting school everywhere and very soon we would find that the formal institutions of learning like the universities will also begin to create the kind of synergy that should have been created in Nollywood long ago.”
“There is a way in which the conveyor belt of the economic value chain of the creative industry is beginning to grow together. And when it grows together like that, what it does is that it meets this promise of being able to actually provide the kind of employment, the kind of contribution to the national economy that we’ve all been talking about. For many years we’ve been talking about Nollywood being the second largest industry in the world, but it was not showing on GDP simply because we did not have it linked together in a clear, recognisable value chain,” Odegbemi added.