This Week on the Boxoffice Podcast: How Nigerian Movie Theaters Are Surviving the Pandemic

Image Courtesy Filmhouse Cinemas

On this week’s episode of the Boxoffice Podcast, co-hosts Rebecca Pahle and Daniel Loria sit down with Moses Babatope, Group Executive Director of Nigeria’s leading cinema chain, Filmhouse Cinemas. Honored with CinemaCon’s Emerging Market Award in 2019, Nigeria saw its box office suffer a year-on-year drop of 73 percent in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic—but this vibrant market continues to grow, boosted by a robust local film scene and the willingness of the film community to band together and promote the theater experience.

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Highlights from Moses Babatope on this week’s episode:

Local Filmmakers Helping to Support the Theatrical Industry

“When it looked like the lockdown was being prolonged, we had a rallying call of various actors and actresses and filmmakers, using their social media forum to really put the word out that, ‘Look, [the theater industry] doesn’t have palliatives. We don’t have any [government] support system like they have in the West. All we have is these cinemas.’ Basically, when it came to the releases of their films, we had to emotionally connect with the audiences again: Look, guys, this is how we’re surviving. Come support us in the cinemas. Give us a chance to show you that in the seven months of the lockdown, we’ve been very creative. We’ve been working hard to give you films that can entertain you. And I have to say the last quarter, really, it was Nigerian films that were saviors of the day. In the last six, seven months, Nigerian firms have actually helped the cinema industry in English West Africa stay alive.” 

Film Piracy During the Pandemic

“One of the films that was really hit quite hit by this phase that we’re going through was Coming 2 America. We’re blessed—we are partners of Amazon, who gave us the rights to release it in Nigeria. Within hours of the launch on Amazon, it was everywhere. It was even physically duplicated. That was the one that was very, very painful, because based on the opening, it could have done record, record numbers. This was a film where people were asking, ‘Why are you going to see it in the cinema? I have a copy on my laptop.’ People were tweeting that and sharing file sharing sites. It was that brazen.”

The Potential of the Nigerian Film Market

“I’ve always said, for years, that people should watch out for the territory of Nigeria. What the territory needs is a little bit of injection of capital, and you’ll see an explosive growth. I have a lot of respect for what’s happened in China. But I think with Nigeria, you can get a lot of organic, real growth, because of the dynamism of the people and their entrepreneurial spirit. It’s really small amounts of capital that can make a big difference here. I think the data supports that. I hope that in a few years from now, we’ll be able to look at those key moments where we turn the corner and there is an inflection point and explosive growth.”

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