ECONOMICS OF NOLLYWOOD: PRICE

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

This is a guest post.

I have written once or twice at my site about the Nigerian movie industry. This was disingenuous of me since I have not seen a full length Nigerian movie in 6 years. I did, however, see a Nigerian movie this past Christmas day. This happened at a meet and greet and I could not stop gushing at how much better Nollywood movies had become.
 

The last movie I saw was 'Hostages', back in college. But, this new movie was a whole new world to me. The casting was impressive and the movie producers used an HD recorder. Nollywood had come a long way, I thought to myself. I then sat through part one and two, but my host did not possess parts three and four of the same movie. Consequently, although the director had managed to work my interest, I did not get an opportunity to watch the movie completely unravel. My host announced that this was a common occurrence because by the time she went back to the retailer to pick up the other parts of the movie a few months later, the retailer apparently ordered too few and they were sold out faster than an iPhone on launch day.
 
Why do the producers of Nigerian movies split movies into many parts
1) Income: If you have never seen this in action you are likely to assume that this is similar to Warner Brothers making Superman 1, Superman 2, Superman Returns and whatever they can come up with next time. But you would be wrong. I am talking about splitting the movie right in the middle of the plot. The movie producer figures nobody will pay 24 dollars for a DVD or a box set of DVDs for that matter. But he eases the consumer into the purchase by delivering the movie in bits and in the process guaranteeing his future income.

2) Piracy: Yet another reason why a movie producer in Nollywood may choose to release their movie in parts is the thorny problem of movie pirates. If the movie was released all at once the unit price would have to be higher, thus creating a bigger incentive for the pirate to duplicate the DVDs and make a brisk buck out of the movie makers sweat. Also, splitting the movie in at least two parts, sometimes four, will require the movie pirate to put in twice as much work to move units, which is also a disincentive to copy these movies. This would not guarantee that the movies would not be pirated but at least it ensures that the pirates must develop a decent business model for their business to break even.

3) Time: Entertainment is a unique commodity in that not only do you have to purchase the unit of entertainment, you also have to devote a sizable amount of time to its consumption. Nollywood developed to fill an entertainment void. Nollywood's challenge was that in financing her ventures, there was a steady audience and a large pool of talented actors. This has also made this movie-splitting practice emerge organic and remain sustainable up till now.
 
The Nollywood business model has served the industry well, by guaranteeing income for the producers, creating an orthogonal business model to deal with piracy, and accounting for consumers with ample time to spare. However, as Nollywood matures there will be a change in expectation by the consumers of Nollywood movies. Thus, the current practice and method of pricing and delivering movies may require a review. With the emergence of alternative movie distribution technologies, such as set top boxes (Apple store, Netflix store, etc) consumers will demand more and will question why they can only watch half of a movie on demand. Also, as more would-be consumers of Nollywood's craft start to utilize competing modes of entertainment, such as the Internet and gaming consoles, it will become more difficult to explain spending 4 hours on a Nollywood movie that could have been edited into a 2 hour flick.

Finally, Nollywood movies are increasingly being consumed outside of Nigeria, and the retailers of this movies are few and far between in most cities. This was definitely the case for my host who could not get the concluding part of the movie at any of the two stores carrying Nigerian movies in Atlanta. All these considerations suggests that over time, Nollywood will have to abandon the current pricing and supply models that have served her so well and gravitate towards more globally acceptable standards.
 
I confess that I am a fledgling Nollywood observer but, I would like to hear from more proficient Nollywood 'gurus'. What do you think about Nollywood and the business of the industry? I am still in the hunt for parts 3 and 4 of the movie that got me thinking about Nollywood's pricing model - 'The Preacher Man'. 
Much thanks to Oz for contributing to Nigerian Curiosity as the Honorary Guest Writer for March 2009. Oz is a highly respected and experienced business & finance aficionado and his blog focuses on African Development.

If you would like to be a Guest Writer for Nigerian Curiosity, please use the 'Contact' button above to reach SolomonSydelle, the blog administrator. 

Finally, please vote for this blog, my ...Easier... blog, and myself, Solomonsydelle, at the ongoing Nigerian Bloggers Award. Thank you.

AddThis Feed Button

34 Curiosities. Add Yours.:

Onyeka said...

You forgot another possible reason why movies are split into many parts. Poor writing and story telling that means that a possibly short story is dragged out unnecessarily. Of course this could be intentional... but I doubt it's all the time.

Sugabelly said...

Make that TERRIBLE, UNIMAGINATIVE, UTTERLY DAFT writing, TERRIBLE, UNIMAGINATIVE, UTTERLY DAFT actors, TERRIBLE, UNIMAGINATIVE, UTTERLY DAFT producers, directors, etc.

Thinking about Nollywood movies make me very tired. I'm going to sleep.

SOLOMONSYDELLE said...

@ Onyeka: You do raise a good point. There are indeed horrible Nollywood films out there and that could factor into the multi-part approach the producers have in marketing their product. However, many Nollywood films have improved over the years, as the writer of this piece asserts. I personally would like to have my movies in one piece, no need to wait for other parts.

Anyway, thanks so much for stopping by!

@ Sugabelly: Madam! Tell 'em why you mad, gurl! lol! We can't write off Nollywood with a wide brush. There is some good product out there and I believe the industry is improving. Besides, Nollywood could possibly be the industry to rebrand Nigeria and maybe even give a burst to the economy if the right people play their cards right.

Anyway, that's just me thinking aloud. Hope you enjoyed your sleep, anyway. Off to get an update on you.

Oz said...

@sugarbelly @onyeka I see your point. But guess what, the number of this movies that are shipped annually is impressive. Someone out there likes this movies. It makes sense to give the industry the respect it deserves even if one does not like the products personally. Think about it like the tobacco industry, whether you like it or not the taxes paid by the Tobacco firms paves the road we all ride on. Overall their writing has also improved, I was also critical in the past but I saw a few movies, I am convinced this is one of the few Nigerian industries moving in the right direction.
Whether we like it or not, Nigeria is Nollywood and Nollywood is Nigeria in the eyes of the foreigners.

SOLOMONSYDELLE said...

@ Oz: I have to agree with your take completely. In my travels, I have met many a person from diverse backgrounds that somehow knows of Nollywood and enjoys the movies. In fact, one of my closest friends has a grandmother who is from Guyana that is a self confessed Nollywood addict. I could go on with examples.

I think that Nollywood could really help Nigeria's image and also could become an industry that provides even more jobs and money for the country if strategically manipulated with an eye for benefiting the nation.

Like Sugabelly, Onyeka (and many others Possible) have pointed out, there is definitely room for improvement. I hope that we can find a way to turn Nollywood into an even grander success.

StandTall-The Activist said...

Most time they just drag the stories unecessarily. SHowing a man/woman walking or driving for 15mins doing nothing! Kai.


I am sure if a movie is good, they can always make their income...

They really have to improve to meet up with Bollywood and Hollywood.

Who Came up with "Nollywood" sef?

For the love of me said...

'Make that TERRIBLE, UNIMAGINATIVE, UTTERLY DAFT writing, TERRIBLE, UNIMAGINATIVE, UTTERLY DAFT actors, TERRIBLE, UNIMAGINATIVE, UTTERLY DAFT producers, directors, etc.'

This comment could only have been made by a terrible,unimaginative,utterly daft, blogger. Nigerian curiousity, you should have moderated this comment. This is an insult on all Nollywood practitioners of which I am one.

If you don't like Nollywood, go do something constructive with yourself and leave us the hell alone.What absolute crap. I would rather write an utterly daft Nigerian movie than be wiping the white man's bum which some of you daft freaks living in the diaspora are doing. I didn't send you there did I? There's Hollywood and Bollywood and perhaps so many other woods, if you want to watch those ones, by all means do.
Nonsense!

I read Oz' comment and was going to explain some of the economics of Nollywood but this has just left me mad.

Oz said...

@For the love of me do come back, this is all a learning experience for some of us and an insiders view will be awesome. Oya come back dont mind the late adopters jare.

Jinta said...

Chineke! for the love has changed to 'no more love'. sugabelly did generalise however, i dont think she meant harm.

like oz said, your take as an insider will do us good

Jinta said...

chei! i wonder what a white man's bum looks like (but this is not that kind of site, so i wont speculate)

Sugabelly said...

Okay, it is ON!!!

@For the love of me: Oh, you're a Nollywood practitioner? Well guess what?? My father is THE BIGGEST Nollywood producer/director out there. YES. HE basically FOUNDED Nollywood. So put that in your damn pipe and smoke it! As a Nollywood practitioner, you in particular, should be hyper-aware of the comical situation that is Nollywood. I know three year olds that could write more imaginative story lines for these films. I know goats that could act better. Damn it, I could write a superlatively better script for a Nollywood film blindfolded with my arms tied behind my back and on crack cocaine to boot!

Do NOT come here and expect me to mindlessly and slavishly praise a film industry that is laughable at best simply because it is Nigerian. Yes, I love my country, and I respect that Nollywood is the product of a lot of hard work on the part of many people, but it is still terribly, utterly substandard. And on a good day, 98% of the films it churns out are incredulously, amusingly DAFT.

Maybe I bruised your shiny Nollywood ego, but the truth MUST be told. I'm not going to stick my head in the sand and pretend that Nollywood is amazing and shit. Because it is not. Period.

In other words, Nollywood=BLANK. FUCKING. STARE.

So, whoever you are, because from your name I can't tell if you're male or female;

Go write a good, well thought out, sensible script. Go find some actors who can actually pretend. Go find a director that actually has some sort of vision. The camera doesn't have to be great. I recognize that we work on a FRACTION of the budget that Hollywood works on, and that's the beauty of independent films, but all you need is a crew that has two creative braincells to rub together between them.

Now go shoot your thoughtful, engaging, interesting, and remotely intelligent film and come back here and we'll have a discussion about all the progress to be found in Nollywood.

Sugabelly said...

And by the way. I think everyone knows that I have nothing to do with the butts of white men. Seriously?

Ego-bruised much? Sheesh! Damn commenters forcing me to do whole posts in comment boxes.

N.I.M.M.O said...

After reading Oz's write up, I wanted to exclaim that finally someone 'gets it' but reading some of the opening comments shows that we probably still have some way to go.

I used to be one of Nollywood's greatest critics, despite the fact that very many - and I mean MANY- of my friends are in the industry. However, I had my 'Damascus' experience a few years ago when I realized that most of us critics were just being unrealistic and largely unfair to those who are in it.

Nollywood is about the only business model that has worked in an environment where there are few -if any- guarantees or certainties in business like Nigeria and indeed in Africa.

And they succeeded. They succeeded in spite of all our Ivy League Business School MBAs and all that.

The truth is we are jealous. How can they succeed without us? How can they do the very things our textbooks say they should not and still get results?

We compare everything in Nollywood with Hollywood forgetting that the audiences and markets are different. That's where they are smarter. They know their market.

You see, as Africans, we just love a good story. It really doesn't matter how many camera angles you use or what kind of camera or even if the Director went to drama school. Just tell me a good story and I will keep coming back for more.

And that is why Nollywood sells. Sour grapes or not.

Oz said...

@sugarbelly, in a weird sort of way I understand your what you are trying to say. But still in a country that can not provide steady electricity with the help of all the fancy consulting firms. Nollywood has been able to produce an exportable good. My Jamaican friends probably love Nollywood more than I do. They saw something I initially did not see. I disagree with the Nollywood is nonsense thing. Okay even if Nollywood is nonsense, it is nonsense that sells. I just watched an episode of Tyra Banks uberstupid nonsense on TV, just as I was about to dismiss her show. I recalled reading that she was the highest grossing TV personality for last year, outside of Oprah I think. Who am I to write her off as nonsense. By the way, the Nollywood movie I watched was way better than the Tyra show.
Bollywood was silly for many years, when we were all growing up, but they have managed to produce a few international break out stars and movies.
Finally, it appears you are closer to Nollywood than most of us. I also see that you may have a pointed or two about good and bad scripts. I am open to working with you on a script so we can show them how its done. Oz like money!!!!!!!!

Sugabelly said...

@Oz: I don't dispute that Nollywood has worked for Nigeria, and I don't dispute its impact on our economy, but every time I watch a Nollywood film, I literally feel a few of my brain cells melting away. Why can't we produce any remotely intelligent films? We don't need fancy cameras or constant electricity to make a good film. We don't have to produce Hollywood quality films, but the point is, the writing aspect is the only part of filmmaking that can really be fabulous on a shoestring budget. Why can't Nigerian screenwriters write a useful movie for once??

Why is it that in every Nollywood film:

If you have sex you must:

a.) Get pregnant - And then have an abortion and die?

b.) Contract HIV - And then develop AIDS and die (but not before converting to Christianity and confessing your wickedness)?

Girls that are supposed to be 25 in the film dress as if they are 15? NOTE TO NOLLYWOOD PRODUCERS!! 25 year old chicks don't dress that way. Get a life. No self respecting 25 year old walks around in a skin tight neon coloured miniskirt coupled with an equally painfully coloured boob tube. 8-|

Grown men call their mothers 'Mommy' - In a high pitched baby voice?

Alex Usifo and Pete Edochie can't go two sentences without spitting out four proverbs - In an absurdly and theatrically low and extraordinarily deep voice?

Every girl that rises to the top professionally has to do so by sleeping with some random-ass fat man or the other?

Or of course by means of a malevolent women's club that acts as a cover for despicable deeds?


Seriously though. I've stopped watching Nigerian movies because watching them makes my brain break into crumbly pieces. The worst part is that most of them aren't even meant to be comedies.

Give me a break 8-|

Sugabelly said...

LOL @ Oz like money. Yeah, we all like money. So true. You know writing a slamming script wouldn't be half bad. But the very idea of Jim Iyke acting in my movie makes me want to cry. There, I'm going to curl up in my bed and weep. Then I'm going to make pancakes. Yum!

Anonymous said...

Just for the record Preacher Man is not shot on HD but on Digital Video which is a step up from the Video which the poster is referring to, but not HD.

Oz said...

Thanks for the correction. What was used? Any thoughts on why Nollywood scripting is different?

Ayodele Alofe said...

@Sugarbelly - you generalise and that labels you a stereotype. You should try thinking outside the box. For all your many words you make no constructive sentence reminds me of empty barrels what's that they say about them again? Oh yes, they make the loudest noise. By the way, who is your father again? "The biggest Nollywood producer out there" wow he must be so proud you consider him unimaginative and daft. As for Nollywood, my take is that, it is today, what Bollywood and Hollywood once were and it will continue to evolve. Are there issues? Sure. Would there sometimes be horrible scripts? Positive. Does that mean it's all a load of rubbish? Hell no!

Nonesuch said...

All these venom makes me scared to comment but my Papa no born Coward ( I hope I read like Pete Edochie BTW did you guys see him as Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart). Nollywood is doing great and there is a lot of room for improvement. While some people see all the negatives and criticise and lash out at the industry and the people I see all the potentials and how big it has become and how much bigger it will be.

The founding fathers must be proud even if we think Nollywood lacklustre. So many will sleep away opportunities to contribute and help make Naija better (even if its through Nollywood). But then many more will be shown the good they possess by others who value what they have but never realised the worth.So many others will applaude from the sidelines and dream of the day when Jim Iyke, Ramsey Noauh, Emem Isong, Andy Best, Uche Jombo, Omotola, Chioma Chwuka, Sam Loco Efe, St Obi, Mama G, Mr Ibu, Aki and Pawpaw, Geneineve and the so many other people in the Yoruba Movie Industry (I dont know which wood that is )will get to walk the red carpets at the Oscars and get some recognition for all the hard work. We shall get there some day.

Sugabelly said...

@Ayodele: and how did you arrive at the conclusion that I didn't make any constructive statements? Read carefully. Behind the joking and the sarcasm is the truth that Nollywood movies are pitifully lacking in many aspects of filmmaking.

And yes, my father's a Nollywood producer, but that will not stop me from being honest. I have no bias towards or against Nollywood, I'm just pointing out what is true.

And what is true is that 98% of the movies that come out of Nollywood are daft. You are the one trying to force a bias on me by trying to evoke family sentiments.

In other words, Babangida's children can't acknowledge to themselves that their father is a thief?

Lost at The End said...

Enlightening post. Smart thinking.

@ Nimmo: you're right. And until we start buying their movies, we have nothing to say. It's about supply and demand. If movie makers don't see "us" as a market, why would they spend time and money on complicated plots and good work? The market woman who buys their film does not ask for much, so they do not give much.

But like Oz says, things will soon change. Stephanie Okereke, Adetiba, and Emenyonu recently went to the new york film school. You have people doing interesting things in music video, which I'm sure will soon wash over to movies.

Just leave sugarbelly. na small pikin dey worry am.

Sugabelly said...

@Lost at the end: Buying their movies will only send the message that they are supplying something that the consumers want.

NOT buying their movies sends the message that there is something wrong with the product and they need to improve it.

It's simple economics. I don't know how you cannot see this.

Latifa said...

ok the reasons mentioned for splitting the movies is grand but 4 a lot of flicks out of Nollywood it's unacceptable! I concur with Onyeka. There are too many gatecrashers in that industry...poor production, same camera angles and badly written scripts.

When they spilt the movie into parts it dilute the storyline and normally they lose the plot. The storylines are always the same, which is fine but they need something concrete, distinctive to make it standout. They need to define what set them apart as a producer and director!

Take the hyped Jenifa for example, it should have remain a slapstick comedy...but in part two the plot changed. Why does Nollywood always have happy ending or a lesson. Out of 100 nollywood movies, I've only watched 2 that surprised me...the ending was absolutely different.

If it's slapstick comedy then it shud stick to the genre...if it's comedy/drama, ensure the drama is well scripted (Nollywood always fail in areas such as medicine...they portray that discipline with a "blonde" mentality). The producer needs to do intense research in order to send out good messages. The actor/actresses need to do intense research in order to transform perfectly into character.

In terms of distribution...they need to start producing quality goods...we consumer want nothing but quality goods. If they venture into selling via iTunes, I will purchase their flicks but I don't purchase from just any random website.

Anonymous said...

Hardly do we get inspirational movies like before, everything now is about making money and not the inspiration.
http://naija-gist.blogspot.com

Oga said...

I beg O...lets not be stupid. If Nigeria produces less movies than Hollywood and not all Hollywood movies with million dollar budgets are good or even watchable then what of our 40K budget movies. The lengths at which producers attempt to recover some of the cash without box office receipts are entrepreneurial and should be applauded. It really speaks volumes of ingenuity as opposed to lack of quality.

Hollywood out produces Nollywood in poor production, poor storyline etc...only thing its more difficult to discern which Nollywood movie will be a poor release.

Anonymous said...

Sugarbelly, why don't you write something yourself, if you are so inteligent, eh? Give it to your father, and tell him that he has been a fool.

Anonymous said...

Sugarbelly, you are a big fool. Admit it.

baraal said...

First, a disclaimer. I am not involved in the movie industry. I am like Oz, an observer who started off skeptical but has become increasingly captivated by Nollywood.

It's quite true as has been pointed out that there are many flaws with Nollywood and its products. But it is important not to lose sight of the bigger significance of the industry.

Apart from the fact that it has developed solely by the efforts of private citizens with no support from the government or international organisations so far, it is now such a huge part of our economy. It employs more people than the oil industry (i was really surprised about that) and is worth more than $2billion. And it shows the impact technology can have.

Also, the person who commented about sending the message to them that they are not supplying what consumers want is wrong. Nollywood has grown so big in Naija and beyond exactly because they are filling a demand that is there. People prefer movies with African stories and actors that they can relate to their own cultures and that's why the movies are so popular across the continent. It is the first time that Africans are telling their own stories in their own way and not according to foreign rules or ideas.

The ironic thing is that had we made a conscious effort to create a movie industry, Nollywood might never have emerged because we would have been trying and failing to recreate Hollywood techniques and conditions in Nigeria. There's a lesson in there for us to apply to other areas of our country that don't work as they should.

Nollywood is a testament to ingenuity and as the author of the post identified, a lot of the things we see like movies with multiple parts are a result of people having to work with the conditions on ground. As the saying goes 'na condition wey make crayfish bend'.

Of course, production values need to improve but i think that will come with time especially as distribution of movies overseas forces them to re-structure their business model. But make no mistake about it, the desire to improve is there. Sometimes i am blown away by the extent of the dreams of directors like Lancelot Imasuen. He is featured in a 2009 Sundance documentary on Nollywood which i am eager to see.

oz said...

thought you guy may want to see this http://www.ppionline.org/ppi_ci.cfm?contentID=254935&knlgAreaID=108&subsecID=127&FREM=Y&sid=1&mid=28341

SOLOMONSYDELLE said...

@ Oz: thanks for the add. Saw it on FB via Emeka Okafor and have infused it into today's post. Thanks so much!

Fancy Dress said...

Ive never really thought about why they break movies up but it does make sense. Its the same situation of dangling a carrot in from of a horse! clever when you think about it!

fancy dress said...

Its great to see a post about Nollywood movies. They are almost totally unheard of to the majority of the public but maybe now people will learn and be able to see amny more of the little gems that have come out of the nigerian movie industry!

Great post!

Jude said...

Guys watch this Nollywood trailer featuring Nollywood actress as the lead actress. The film is called Anchor Baby. It is written, directed and produced by a Nigerian Lonzo Nzekwe. Click the link to watch it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Yx_kiBOZDA

Post a Comment

Get curious...share your thoughts, long and short. But, do remain civil.