Opinion

WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF CINEMA IN NIGERIA?

Cinema is as old as the television invention. Cinema is to the British what the Americans call a movie theater and the Indians call a cinema hall.

Cinema is from the French cinématographe which comes in part from the greek kinema, meaning movement. So, cinema is really just another word meaning moving picture. It also has come to mean more generally, the process of film-making and also the building where films are shown.

But in this discourse, we are looking at the future of the practice of going to a building where movies are shown to see movies, in Nigeria.

With the invention of as well as further innovations in audio visual technology, it is no longer necessary for one to visit the movie theater (cinema) to see movies.

Our society transitioned from those days when it was only those who go to the cinema that could see movies to the days when you would make friends with children from privileged homes that owned televisions so they could let you peek through the windows to see movies on their television and, presently, to every individual being able to see any movie conveniently with the device in his/her hands. But somehow, even with all these, the cinema system has not gone into extinction.

The movie industry has continued to carve a niche for the cinema, making it an imperative for all who want to experience certain movies first. And so, some movies get to be premiered at the cinema before they are uploaded on streaming sites.

Why do movie studios still release their movies in cinema first before releasing them on streaming sites? Because the cinema release helps them recoup production cost and make their initial bulk returns.

For instance, Sony Movie Studio made One billion, eight hundred and ninety million, nine hundred and eighty three thousand, two hundred and seventy five dollars from showing Spider-Man on cinema. Universal Pictures made a whooping Four hundred and sixty eight million, two hundred and sixteen thousand, and ninety four dollars from premiering the movie Godzilla vs Kong at the cinema. The Batman gave Warner Bros Three hundred and sixty two million, seven hundred thousand dollars via the cinema.

In Nollywood, Funke Akindele Studio in collaboration with Film One made Six hundred and sixty eight million, four hundred and twenty three thousand and fifty six naira cumulative revenue from the movie ‘Battle on Buka Street’. Scene One Production made Six hundred and thirty six million, one hundred and twenty nine thousand, one hundred and twenty naira from the movie ‘Omo Ghetto, the saga’, while Ijakumo, the Toyin Abraham collaboration with Film One movie that gives me the chills, made the producers Two hundred and seventy eight million, four hundred and ninety six thousand, three hundred and twenty eighty four naira.

If the movie studios behind these films had not released them in theaters, they would be leaving their share of these worldwide box office revenues on the table. Movie studios are for-profit companies, and they want to maximize their revenues as much as possible. Often that means releasing their movies in theaters first and then putting it on their own or someone else’s streaming service afterwards.

In 2021, there were a total of 68 movie theaters in Nigeria. The State of Lagos had 26 cinemas, the highest number among all states.

The Nigerian film industry, known as Nollywood, is the second-largest in the world in terms of output, turning out over 2,500 movies each year. This amount tops Hollywood and is only surpassed by Bollywood in India.

In as much as such streaming sites such as Netflix and Iroko TV are redefining the ease of access to new movies as well as the way Movie Studios make money from their movies, the movie theaters seem like they have come to stay in the industry. Modern cities in Nigeria are still not complete without cinemas. In Awka, Anambra State capital where I stay, over the last 10 years, at least 5 movie theaters have sprung up. I believe the reason for the endurance of the movie theater culture can be connected to the sociological impact it has given that it provides an opportunity for social interaction. Lovers and families make going to the cinema a part of their bonding exercise and movie studios use the movie theater as a platform for introducing their movies to the public and getting first hand feedback from them.

In all, I do not believe that the future is entirely bright for the cinema in Nigeria. What, with the way streaming sites are blighting the earnings movie studios can make from their movies. A case in point in the amount Netflix streaming site reportedly paid Genevieve Nnaji for the movie Braveheart; 3.8 million dollars, which is over one billion naira.

By O’Star Eze

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