Last year, Nollywood the second largest film industry in the world celebrated its 20th year and after a decline in cinema attendance in the country, people are rapidly returning to the pictures. The industry produces about 50 movies per week and although its revenues are not on par with Bollywood and Nollywood, it spawns an impressive 590 million dollars annually.
“Up until the early 80’s, Nigeria had close to about 5,000 cinemas. The olden days cinemas, one screen, some of them open roof but then it died away,” Kene Mkparu, CEO, Filmhouse Cinema and FilmOne Distribution told CNBC Africa.
1967, videocassettes of movies became available globally and when this hit Nigeria much, cinema attendance saw a drastic decline throughout the country. The videocassettes popularity also meant serious piracy problems as the World Bank estimates that for every legitimate copy sold, nine others are pirated.
“In the western world, video helped the showbiz industry, so the cinema’s grew bigger but in Nigeria coupled with some of the security issues in the country, people would have much rather stayed at home,” he said.
Nonetheless, cinema culture in the country made a rebound in 2004 due to the westernisation of many Nigerians and has since made significant progress.
“In 2004, modern cinema came back to Nigeria and then people got a taste of it, especially people that didn’t grow up with this cinema culture and they liked it. In Nigeria, it’s the safest family entertainment,”
“Now, you find that a lot of cinemas are creeping up all around Nigeria, it started first in the big cities, clearly in Lagos and Abuja but it has spread now to other cities and the demand there is so huge,” he explained.
On the other hand, the South African film industry has internationally recognised films to its credit and an annual turnover of 300 million dollars. In addition, there country has 700 cinema screens with a cinema growing cinema-going population of 5.5 million people.
“We are still young and right now, Nigeria has about 78 screens across 16 cinemas, so we are still young. Filmhouse for instance, we plan to open 25 cinemas in six years but Nigeria is growing at the rate of almost about seven cinemas every year,”
Mkparu believes that in 10 years’ time, the country will have about 500 screens or just shy of that but as it is brick and mortar, it will take a while to build and there’s not enough cinema expertise in Nigeria,”
Despite the numerous achievements the industry has made in just a short time, the cinema space still has a long way to go as more Nigerians need to get its expertise.
“There is a skill deficit to design and build it in the first place and then to operate it. So it’s slow but it’s fast at the same time for our territory,” he added.