Film-making in many years has continued to show its power to be a source of consistent revenue. With the box office successes recorded by Nollywood in recent times, it has become inevitable for Nigeria’s film industry to find itself compared with Hollywood.
The revered home of the American film industry undoubtedly serves as the benchmark when it comes to commercial success and technological advancement. There is also the prestige and razzmatazz which surrounds its actors and events. Hence, when talk of comparing Nollywood with Hollywood comes up, it should really be about whether Nigeria’s film industry is on course to attain the starry echelons in which its American counterpart resides.
This can be ascertained from the quality of films produced, how often these works are made. How many film lovers get to see these works and actually enjoy them? How many physical and online outlets are available for these film lovers to access these works? How Nollywood’s big names present themselves to the public, their star power within and outside Nigeria. As well as other bits of the industry such as award shows, box office releases, merchandising, television deals and more.
Hollywood has become a mainstay for billion-dollar releases. Such huge revenues from films allow producers to put even greater effort towards replicating such successes. This has led Nollywood to begin producing films which would be box office successes.
As a result, we have seen Nigerian films in recent years hover around the million-dollar mark in revenue. These include “The Wedding Party” and its sequel, “King of Boys”, “Merry Men” and its sequel, “Chief Daddy”, and “Sugar Rush”. This was after “30 Days in Atlanta” and “A Trip to Jamaica” showed the film world that Nollywood productions could rake in a cool hundred million from the Box Office.
“The Wedding Party” ranks as the highest-grossing Nollywood film ever after cashing out at N452 million (about $1.3 million) after seven weeks at the big screens; thus becoming the first Nigerian film to cross the N400 million mark.
2016 was a record-setting year for the Nigerian box office, which grossed N3.5 billion (around $11.5 million) in 2016, with nearly 30% of that revenue coming from local film productions.
While that is far from the standard Hollywood has set, Nollywood is proving to be fertile ground for high grossing film productions with the likes of Kayode Kasum’s “Sugar Rush” (2019) earning N268 million, Kemi Adetiba’s “King of Boys” (2018) raking in N244 million, “Merry Men: The Real Yoruba Demons (2018) and its sequel “Merry Men 2: Another Mission” (2019) earning N236 million and N233 million respectively.
Add to that the recent forays by American streaming giants in the Nollywood scene which has seen a number of the aforementioned films becoming available on the platform (translation – streaming dollars) as well as Netflix itself buying rights to Nollywood productions by Genevieve Nnaji, Kunle Afolayan, Biyi Bandele and more, it is not far-fetched to think Nollywood would soon get to the level of high-grossing Hollywood productions such as The Avengers films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Star Wars saga, “Titanic” and a classic, “Gone with the Wind”/
“Gone with the Wind”, which was first released in 1939. is generally considered to be the most successful film ever, with Guinness World Record in 2014 estimating its adjusted global gross at $3.4 billion. Other films topping the revenue chart of Hollywood include “Avengers: Endgame” with $2.8 billion in revenue, just ahead of “Avatar” with $2.79 billion and “Titanic” with $2.19 billion made.
The progress of the Nollywood industry has challenged the assumption that Africans prefer foreign products (including popular culture) to domestic ones. Nollywood films are not only competing favourably with foreign ones in Africa but in some cases have won an even greater audience.
Time will tell how far Nollywood can go to reaching the Hollywood standard.