The French Canal +, the American Netflix, but also the Chinese StarTimes or for a long time the South Africans of MultiChoice make the soft eyes to the Nigerian cinema, second film industry in the world, behind Bollywood, with more than 2,500 films produced a year .
“Nigerian box office revenues increased from 17.3 million to $ 23.6 million between 2017 and 2018” (+ 36%), says Chijoke Uwaegbute, an industry analyst for PriceWaterhouseCoopers.
“Nowhere in the world will you find such opportunities and growth,” the consultant concludes before an audience of Nigerian investors, filmmakers, or Lagos state politicians.
At the beginning of July, were held the first days “French-Nigerian Cinema Days” in Lagos, cultural capital of the African continent, with a hundred guests.
“For about two years, we have begun to see interest from the French side for Nigerian cinema,” notes Serge Noukoué, founder of Nollywood Week, a festival held every year in Paris since 2012.
– Huge success –
Canal + was already interested in Nollywood by offering to its French-speaking African subscribers Nollywood TV, a channel whose immense success, with its English-speaking cousin Africa Magic, proposed by the South African giant Multichoice, confirms the craze for this cinema ” African who speaks to Africans. “
The poor quality of the sound, images, and even the plot is obviously not a hindrance to the huge success of Nollywood, “it did not encourage investors to increase the budgets of films,” writes Alessandro Jedlowski , specialist in African cinema for the Université Libre de Bruxelles.
Nollywood’s films are often shot in a few days, with a few thousand euros, and victims of copyright piracy that has long paralyzed the industry.
But a good number of films have boxed in recent years at the box office in the few dark rooms of the country: The Wedding Party 1 and 2 of the director Kemi Adetiba have generated more than 2 million dollars in revenue, beating for the first time in the history of the country the scores of American blockbusters.
Niyi Akinmolayan’s comedy Chief Daddy made some 236 million nairas (580,000 euros) in admissions in 2018.
We are far from the scores in the countries of the North and the road to the Oscars is still long. But for the first time it seems that the middle and upper classes, only to be able to afford a ticket to the country’s 52 cinemas (for 190 million inhabitants), are less and less reluctant to pay to go see “a Nollywood”.
At the Nigerian box office, Nollywood was a few years ago at 5% behind the big American productions.Today, it is around 30%.
– Higher-end movies –
It is the higher-end films that are now of interest to foreign producers.
The Canal Olympia rooms, the Vivendi group’s cinemas and concert halls spreading across the continent, offer at least “one Nollywood per week” in its programming.
The group will open next year two cinemas in Nigeria, a country where it is still difficult to implement such projects because of the costs of the ground or the lack of electricity, but a must-see country with a screen for now of cinema for one million inhabitants.
“Being close to Nollywood is very important for us,” says Simon Minkowski, Strategy and Development Director for Canal Olympia. “But in addition to broadcasting, there is a real appetite for producing content by Africans in Africa.”
This is what Canal + has been doing for four years in French-speaking Africa.
“The content and editorial line of Canal Afrique is closer to African countries,” says Laurent Sicouri, director of acquisitions for Canal + International, passing through Lagos, “to evaluate the production” of Nigerian cinema.
“There is no doubt that France has something to do in Nigeria – you simply can not neglect a country that produces 2,500 films a year,” explains Eric Garandeau, a consultant and former director of the CNC (National Film Center).
But for the moment, the “obsession” of Lagos filmmakers is turning more to the American giant Netflix, who began to offer Nigerian films on its catalog and has even started producing content with LionHeart Genevieve Nnaji .
“Now that Nollywood is attracting investors, Nigerians need to learn to better protect their interests so that there is not a pure exploitation of their content,” nuance Serge Noukoué. “Right now, they are selling to Netflix and it’s over.”