Monday 19 May 2014


The dilemma: Will more cinemas solve Nollywood's biggest problem?

Haven't you heard enough, already, on Nollywood? Sorry, this Leo had to get this off his 'blog desk'.

Researching for a previous post, this Leo came across a post by the U.S fashion and entertainment lawyer, Ms. Uduak Oduok, generously titled, "Perhaps Kene Mkparu and Other African Theater Owners Should Listen to Netflix’s Ted Serandos on How Not to Strangle Innovation in Trying to Solve Nollywood’s Film Distribution Problems?". The post contains 2 insightful videos, which readers should endeavour to watch. [By the way, if you're highly interested in Nigeria's entertainment & media gossip (from a legal perspective), then Afro Leo recommends that you follow Ms. Oduok on Twitter]

In summary, Ms. Oduok doesn't believe that investing in more cinemas (or movie theatres for U.S folks) is the key to resolving Nollywood's distribution problem. One of her qualms is that the existing cinemas are heavily pushing Hollywood content to the consumers. [Afro Leo thinks: "Unfortunate, maybe that's where the money is."]

Ms. Oduok's post, similar to some of this Leo's, is more of an exploratory piece in which she posits thoughtful questions. This Leo understands the suggested idea and conclusion to be that the push for more cinemas in Nigeria should not overshadow innovative considerations, moreover, that it might not be in Nollywood's best interests.

Indeed, mobile technology is booming across Africa and new ways (e.g. here and here) to distribute content are emerging (or even evolving). We also know about the widely-publicised problems such as poor infrastructure (and here). [See Tim Katlic's oAfrica for an A-Z guide

Based on available online evidence, this Leo can agree that Hollywood content is currently enjoying the Afro Leo lion share in Nigeria's cinemas. This point was hinted at numbers 3 and 4, first section, of his World IP Day post. [Afro Leo also understands, at least in the UK, that Odeon once dedicated a special late night screening slot for a Nollywood film. There may well have been subsequent screenings of Nollywood films by Odeon or other mainstream chains in the UK]

A local content-style solution?
Through previous Afro-IP posts, e.g. here, we learn that the Bank of Industry (BOI) and Nigerian Export and Import Bank (NEXIM) are the two key public funding sources available to Nollywood. For example, it is reported that the BOI will also financially back investors looking to build cinemas. Looking at the bank's guide, it is delightful to see securitisation of IP rights; however, there isn't a thing which places an obligation on the recipient to, in good faith, advance the best interests of Nollywood. [What can be classified as the best interests of Nollywood?Where taxpayers' money is involved in a business venture, is it unreasonable for government to exert some form of influence

Afro Leo is wondering: Would it be fair to include a condition, in the agreement with a cinema operator in receipt of public funds, which requires the operator to screen a minimum number of Nollywood films? This Leo is not entirely sure if this is feasible, not least, because the consumer is king. [The UK (here and here) is not that far off from what this Leo has in mind - though theirs are grants] However, he is aware that Nigeria already operates a regime, in its oil and gas sector, commonly referred to as local content; perhaps, that could form the blueprint for any such policy seeking to advance the best interests of Nollywood. [Afro Leo couldn't just resist to add that it should be evidence-based policymaking]

More questions than answers....
(1) How can Nollywood or policymakers properly encourage people away from DVDs to viewing in cinemas? Would this help, in any way, in the fight against piracy? [Afro Leo tells us to spare a thought for the internationally acclaimed movie, Half of a Yellow Sun - yet to be released in Nigeria. Happy pirates!]

(2) If the industry and policymakers decide to back the common model seen in developed countries, would this not affect millions who cannot afford a cinema ticket? [Afro Leo scratching his head, thinking: "Surely, this would lead to more demand for pirated copies; how can Nollywood abandon the model that made it famous?"]

(3) Is it that the majority of Nollywood films lack the quality or compatibility for cinema releases?

One can easily see that there are difficult decisions to be made here and that this is not helped by the fact that film piracy is here to stay. Time to think outside the box?

Anyway, if the above observation (i.e. that Hollywood is having the lion share) is factual, then it looks like the public funding schemes might not be all that helpful in addressing Nollywood's biggest problem: distribution.
Nollywood rated third globally in revenue earnings, says NEXIM Bank MD, here, but how did it come up with that?



Subscribe via email (you'll be added to our Google Group)


Write comments
23 May 2014 at 13:46 delete

To promote french music on radio, France did a law that obliged all radio station to broadcoast a given percentage of french song. In my view, it allowed good french artists to find money and audience, Nigeria could use the same strategy with cinema.