Theatrical Distribution & New Nollywood: What The Future Holds
It is now common knowledge across various circles that the Nigerian film industry commonly referred to as ‘Nollywood’ ranks among the top 3 film industries in the world particularly in terms of the quantity of titles produced annually. Whilst there are many who are not overly excited by this statistic, the truth is that an industry plagued by so much challenges and barriers must be commended for its share resilience of making something out of nothing.
The same spirit that brought Nollywood into the limelight is what we are witnessing again over the last 3 years with the arrival of top quality productions pain-stakingly made by practitioners who nurse the ‘I have a dream’ philosophy of the late Martin Luther King, to show that we can match quantity with quality in the face of obvious stumbling blocks. Stephanie Okereke upped the ante with her production debut ‘Through the Glass’ in the first half of 2009 and we were quick to applaud and support for being bold in a terrain where there was little if anything to show in terms of investment return. Luckily the re-introduction of cinemas back to the psyche of entertainment-loving Nigerians meant that there was practical support in terms of box office revenue for Stephanie’s effort. In late 2009, Kunle Afolayan undeterred by the daunting challenge to recoup investment in an industry where the economics is backward, released the critically acclaimed and the commercially successful film ‘The Figurine’. Such is the power of film that 3 years on, this work has gone beyond being a motion picture but a new dawn in African Cinema. Sources say ‘The Figurine’ has been screened on all continents in the world. As with Stephanie, the fact that cinemas were available when Kunle released the film made the venture worthwhile and the film has gone on record to be one of the highest grossing films in Nigerian Cinema history.
The correlation between Kunle and Stephanie’s success wasn’t just luck or their popularity or the fact that people were curious to see their work, it was because of their doggedness, foresight, sacrifice, attention to detail and professionalism which added to the ever present patriotic Nigerin spirit that made this work but beyond all of these the presence of cinemas as a form of film exhibition and an outlet for revenue generation meant that the industry was about to witness a revival.
So 2009 passed with those 2 titles going into the history books for their achievements, 2010 got even better with the successful releases of IJE and Anchor Baby. By now the number of cinemas had marginally increased from 5 in 2009 to 7. The producers of IJE had taken a cue from Kunle and Stephanie and definitely went the extra mile to showcase world class approach to film making. IJE was screened in almost 30 film festivals around the world, winning several accolades in the process but was even more commendable was that the producers of this film didn’t compromise their position for once, this was going to be a product meant for cinema and they were going to live a mark. A mark and a credible empirical evidence they left us with because IJE demolished everything there was at the Nigerian box office in what is traditionally a tough time for independent films which IJE would have been categorised as at the time. Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz and Angelina Jolie all fell at the feet of Omotola and Genevieve……. To be continued.
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