Nollywood’s the Mirror Boy Gets a West End Premiere in UK And Looks Set to Get Theatrical Release in Q2, 2011

Source: Balancing Act (Issue no 99 – 2nd March 2011)

Last week Thursday saw the first premiere of a Nollywood movie – The Mirror Boy – in the heart of London’s cinemaland at the Empire, Leicester Square. However, this event was simply the culmination of over five years of work on encouraging premiers and theatrical release for Nollywood movies in the UK. With a new wave of more cinematic releases from Nollywood makers, they seem to be on the verge of a breakthrough into international theatrical release. Russell Southwood spoke to Moses Babatope, the Special Projects Manager, Odeon Cinemas about how things are changing.

In 2010, Odeon Cinemas had 14 screenings of Nollywood films, of which a dozen were premieres with stars in attendance. These included films such as The Figurine and The Tenant (made in Yoruba by Tunde Kelani). As Babatope told us:”We’ve been doing this since 2006 and started with screenings in Odeon Surrey Quays (an area close to a large part of the Nigerian diaspora population. Sometimes the film-makers or producers approach me and sometimes I approach them. We’re always looking out for good films.”

The deal is on a hire basis:”In trying to build a business case (within Odeon), we had to start by re-invigorating the culture (of going to the cinema) in the core audience. We needed to build this case by doing one-off screenings.” The screenings were held late night on either Tuesday or Friday and gave Odeon Cinemas additional income through hire revenues in a dead time and secondary revenues through retail (with sale of things like popcorn):”The promoters of the film deal with the ticketing. But the screenings are tapping into a different demographic for Odeon Cinemas and that interests them.”

The latest premiere is The Mirror Boy and it’s big news because it got an evening showing in the Empire, Leicester Square, which is London’s cinema for most of the big Hollywood premieres in the UK. But almost as interestingly, the film is likely to get a theatrical release in 10 cinemas later in the year. That may not sound a lot of cinemas but if successful, and the genre establishes itself, it could lead to a new box office income stream for Nollywood makers in a world which there are not many of them.

Written, produced anddirected by Obi Emelonye, an award winning UK based Nigerian filmmaker and starring Genevieve Nnaji and Osita Iheme – some of the biggest screen talents Africa has to offer – The Mirror Boy may become the blockbuster that fans of Nigerian cinema have been waiting for and its first crossover movie into mainstream global cinema.

The Mirror Boy is a universal family adventure film that tells the uplifting story of a young teenage African British boy taken back to the land of his mother’s birth, but then gets mysteriously lost in a foreboding forest and embarks on a magical journey that teaches him about himself and the mystery of the father he has never seen.

Shot in the truly beautiful terrain of the The Gambia and boasting high quality production values, despite its low (by international standards) budget, The Mirror Boy is said by many in the international movie business to be the Nollywood movie that can finally match it’s industry’s new found status. And interestingly is one of a new wave of Nollywood releases that are truly cinematic experiences. Watch this space for further developments.

Also go to Balancing Act’s Web TV Channel to see:

To see a video clip of Moses Babatope talking about how things have developed, click here:

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