Nigeria, the recipient of CinemaCon 2019’s Emerging Market Spotlight Award, is receiving the honor following three years of consecutive double-digit admissions growth across the West Africa (Ghana, Liberia, and Nigeria) territory.
The catalyst behind the growth in admissions is the continued spread of moviegoing culture in the region, evidenced by the opening of 10 new DCI-compliant locations in 2018. Audience demand for more cinemas has been driven by the appeal of Hollywood and Nollywood titles alike; Nigerian titles accounted for over 25 percent of the overall box office in West Africa, while Black Panther accounted for almost 15 percent of the total box office. Nigeria is therefore in a unique position to succeed in the coming years, counting on a well-established infrastructure for local productions to help balance demand between national cinema and Hollywood imports. The strength of Nollywood has ancillary benefits, most notably the drawing power of homegrown stars with influential social media followings—and the press coverage that comes along with it.
Moses Babatope, managing director of distribution/production outfit FilmOne (part of the corporate structure of leading exhibitor FilmHouse Cinemas) says he believes Nigeria could potentially grow to have up to 5,000 screens throughout 1,000 locations within 10 years. The country currently counts on just fewer than 200 screens from 45 existing sites. As with any market, the growth of the national economy will be an important factor for leisure activities like cinema to continue growing. A strong economic base also opens the door to further investment—not only in developing more real estate, but in building more state-of-the-art theaters with the latest technology. “The cost of building and running a cinema is not cheap,” admits Babatope. “Most of the key inputs for a cinema, such as sound and projection, have to be imported, which mean Forex is required, and the volatility does not help.”
Despite those challenges, the FilmHouse group is betting that the cinema business in Nigeria will continue to excel. “We see continued growth in [Nigeria] for a variety of reasons,” says Babatope. “The territory remains underscreened; depending on where you live in the country, it may take a while to get to the cinema. We believe that as more cinemas open closer to the people, cinemagoing will become more of a lifestyle than the aspirational product that it is today.”