See The Only Thing Nollywood Has Over Hollywood

My name is Ekene and I am a filmmaker.
Whenever I introduce myself like that, it elicits different reactions from people. Amongst Nigerians, you can see it on their faces when they smile and say “oh! You are amongst those people that make those juju films” or they call them ‘substandard’ or ‘terrible quality’ or ‘poor story telling’ movies.

I can understand what they are trying to say and I forgive them. That was me a few years ago until I got more information.
They are comparing our movies with the Hollywood movies, which is what they watch at the cinemas. About 90% of the movies screened at Nigerian cinemas are Hollywood movies. So I hear some of them ask me “when will you guys start making movies like the guys in Hollywood do”? Or they ask me when we would be like Hollywood.
i deal with a lot of people in the middle and upper class (which make about 15% of the population of the country) in the Lekki suburb where I live in Lagos and I realized that a lot of them don’t watch Nigerian movies. This could be due to the fact that their only thinking of Nigerian movies comes from what they used to see years ago when they last saw one without realizing a lot has changed. They prefer to watch American series and movies and wonder why we can’t make it like they do. You have to realize that the American film industry is over 100 years old and they also had a time when they made movies that people felt were not that good.
Lets me also say that the average amount it takes a studio just to market a movie in Hollywood is about $40 million, without production cost (Source: So it’s not right to expect that a house built with that amount and the one built with $20,000 would look alike. The reason why we can’t spend beyond what we spend now is also because we know how much returns it would make. Isn’t it unwise to make a movie for $100,000 when the average amount a Nigerian movie makes in returns in less than $40,000? Americans did not start that industry by spending millions on a movie. They grew to where they are. So today, Americans can afford to spend even $100 million to make a movie because they know the movie would open in over 100,000 screens with different slots per day and about 200 seats per screen.
You do the math, as compared to about 20 cinemas here. We know we have a passion for filmmaking but it’s also what we use to feed our families, send our kids to good schools and pay the bills. That we don’t knot a tie in the morning and go to an office by 8am does not mean it’s not a business that should make a profit. I know you must have heard of some Nigerian movies that they claim to have made with about $100,000 and how they grossed close to a million dollars.
Well, that is story for another day. But as the saying goes ‘don’t always believe the hype’. There’s a whole lot to those figures and you also have to realize how a few of those movies are also funded.Though a couple of Nigerian films have made a lot of money as reported. But that is not what this write-up is about.
As they ask why we can’t be like Hollywood, what they fail to realize is that we don’t plan to be like Hollywood. It makes no sense for us to try and copy Hollywood. It’s not good for us at all. I know a few filmmakers in Nigeria have this ambition and make their films to fit this purpose and we wish them all the best. By the way, only about 1% of movies shot outside America or by non-Americans make it to the US cinemas. If there’s anything we want to be like that resembles Hollywood, it’s their distribution network and how they have been able to get their movies to all ends of the earth, which is responsible for how much money they earn each time they make a movie. Nothing else!
So the question is, why don’t we want to be like Hollywood? . Because we can never be as good as they are in their game, talk less of being better. Why should we try to play in a game we can never win? Imagine the Super Eagles (Nigeria’s football national team) about to play a match and we already know they have lost before the blast of the first whistle. Doesn’t make any sense.
You have to understand what Nollywood is to understand my reasoning. Nollywood is not a product but a system. The word ‘Nollywood’ was coined by a foreign journalistwho came to Nigeria and saw a group of people who were telling their stories in a unique way, who used little resources and a short time to make a movie that was been consumed by a large part of their population and in other parts of the continent. He was amazed at the turn around time of investment in our movies and saw how these ingenious people were able to make something out of nothing.

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