SAMUEL ABULUDE looks at the impact of cinema houses in Nigeria and how it has influenced the effect of piracy in the movie industry
The Nigerian movie industry has done well for itself by putting the nation on the global map. The movie industry, which gained recognition in the 90s as the second highest in terms of the number of movies churned out, has now evolved into a national pride as it takes a pride of place in telling African stories. Nollywood movies thrived in the 90s as low budget movies were being made into video cassettes in direct to home DTH format and getting to the consumers directly.
Movies like “Living In Bondage”, “Nneka The Pretty Serpent”, “Glamour Girls” and so many other movies in the Yoruba language were the toast of the time as the movie producers smiled to the bank. But shortly after, pirates who were always lurking in the dark and waiting for the movies to be produced and gained success, made sure the return on investments by the owners were short lived.
This was due to an inadequate distribution system that ensured the number of copies produced could not meet the movieloving populace. Even with the era of CDs/ DVDs, piracy continued unabated and the efforts of the Nigeria Copyright Commission could not nip it in the bud. It was as if the pirates are always a step ahead of the moviemakers.
A great number of movies like “Maami” produced by Tunde Kelani and others became victims of pirates. A lot of moviemakers were wary of shooting movies only to lose them to the scourge of pirates. With the evolution of technology in movie production and distribution, a lot of avenues-distribution channels in showcasing their movies became open to the owners of movies which include screening the movies at the cinema houses before deciding to make it into CD/DVD for home viewing.
With the opportunity to screen the movies at the cinema houses also came the need to shoot with a higher grade of equipment for better quality and this in turn boosted the quality of Nollywood movies. The first modern day cinema house was built by the Silverbird Group in 2004 which is the Silverbird Galleria located at Ahmadu Bello Road at Victoria Island, Lagos.
Cinema Houses In Nigeria At present, there are more than 45 cinemas in Nigeria. Each has a minimum of three screens. The cinema houses are sparsely distributed in Nigeria, with Lagos accounting for about 15 of them. As far back as 1942 in colonial-era, Nigeria has 11 cinema chains and 44 screens. Thirty years after, in 1972, the country had 300 film theatres and 1500 screens scattered across the country.
This was regarded as the golden age of Nigerian cinemas as the economy was booming then, even though only American and Asian movies were allowed to screen. Dearth of Cinema Houses By 1994, the Nigeria cinema culture had died due to a fall in the value of the Naira, inadequate funding and marketing support, lack of standard film studios and inexperience on the part of the practitioners.
The earlier oil boom had facilitated investment in film production but this dried up as the recession hit the industry hard due to lack of equipment and post-production work required foreign exchange. The oil boom had also created a middle class able to afford television sets and home video players, ushering in an era of low budget home movies.
For filmmakers, a growing home movie industry was the only immediate solution from new economic realities. As the straight-to-video industry boomed, cinemas became obsolete, and distribution was carried out through sales/rental outlets. How Cinema Houses Reduced Piracy The reality now is that with the advent of cinemas, the budget for movie made for the cinemas shot up to 10 times more than the straight-tovideo movies which are still in existence.
The old distribution methods would not suffice. For one, piracy was a big issue. The big screen has helped mitigate this; as cinemas become the primary distribution platform, the influence of pirates reduces. Moviemaker and owner of FAD FM in Calabar, Fidelis Duker, noted that indeed a lot of distribution channels were needed for the movie industry to be healthier and movie makers get their return on investment ROI.
“Piracy has done its worst in the film making industry but stakeholders in the industry are looking at the distribution channels that suits them in releasing their movies to the people. Indeed the coming of cinemas has done well but the number is still small. Imagine if every state has a cinema and many community cinemas, moviemakers will smile to the bank.
We need to have a strong distribution channels that the pirates will not be able to penetrate. And those pirates caught should have stiffer punishments than before as a deterrent to others”, Duker added. “Wedding Party 1” grossed N452,000,000 at the cinemas in 2016 which is the highest record so far. The sequel “Wedding Party 2” grossed N435,000,000 in the cinemas in 2017. Other movies like “Chief Daddy”, “King of Boys”, “Merry Men 1 & 2” are all the movies that grossed above N230m with “Chief Daddy” becoming the third highest record on the box office grossing N387, 540 749.
“30 Days In Atlanta” released in 2014 grossed N173,000,000 despite being pirated afterwards. All these are testaments that the cinema distribution system has helped in reducing piracy and ensured return on investment. Conclusion The United States has nearly 40,000 screens in the cinemas, India has more than 13,000. Nigeria has less than 200 screens across the country. As Nigeria is seeing greater investment in movie theatres, there have been calls for more.
There is need for enabling environment for the industry to thrive, insecurity reduced and more cinemas built across the country. According to a stakeholder in the movie industry, Sola Fajobi, “Piracy in creative arts industry is rendering the practitioners bankrupt and the pirates are smiling to the bank. I strongly believe with the cooperation of key stakeholders the Government and all Security Agency, we can smile once again in the Entertainment Industry.
We need mega distribution companies. Also consumer education is seriously required as most consumers will still buy VCD Part 1 & 2 for N200 each against a single DVD containing the two parts and even more at N400 which are manufactured by pirates.” Also, an Abuja based movie pundit called on the government to invest more in cinemas to expand the market, which would also help in the reduction of piracy and the expansion of film industry in Nigeria.