The Nigerian film industry is now worth about US$5.1 billion according to financial estimates compiled last year placing it ahead of the United States and behind only India. This is an improvement from 2013 when it was rated as the third most valuable film industry in the world after generating a total revenue of US$10 billion in that year alone, placing it behind India and the United States. The Nigerian film industry is also colloquially known as Nollywood, having been derived as a play on Hollywood in the same manner as Bollywood from Bombay, India.
Nollywood produces hundreds of home videos and films per annum and is Africa’s largest movie industry in terms of value and the number of movies produced per year. Although Nigerian films have been produced since the 1960s, the rise of affordable digital filming and editing technologies has stimulated the country’s film and video industry.
The first Nigerian films were made by filmmakers such as Ola Balogun and Hubert Ogunde in the 1960s, but they were frustrated by the high cost of film production. However, television broadcasting in Nigeria began in the 1960s and received much government support in its early years. By the mid-1980s every state had its own broadcasting station. Law limited foreign television content so producers in Lagos began televising local popular theater productions. Many of these were circulated on video as well, and a small-scale informal video movie trade developed.
Nigerian film industry had always been making films on celluloid and the films were screened in cinema houses across Nigeria and later released on VHS for various homes. However, the release of the Straight-to-video movie Living in Bondage in 1992 by NEK Video Links owned by Kenneth Nnebue launched the Home video market in Nigeria. Nnebue had an excess number of imported video cassettes which he then used to shoot his first film on a Video Camera.
Nollywood exploded into a booming industry in the late ’90s and pushed foreign media off the shelves. It is now an industry marketed all over Africa and the rest of the world. The use of English rather than the local languages expanded the market and aggressive marketing using posters, trailers, and television advertising also played a role in Nollywood’s success. The first Nollywood films were produced using celluloid while Nollywood straight-to-video productions were produced with traditional analog video, such as Betacam SP, but today almost all Nollywood movies are produced using digital cinematography technology.
Nollywood’s biggest competition in the Nigerian market is the Ghanaian film industry. However, many Ghanaian productions are copyrighted to Nollywood and distributed by Nigerian marketers due to Nigeria’s bigger market. Nigerian filmmakers usually feature Ghanaian actors in Nollywood movies as well and that has led to the popularity of Ghanaian actors almost like their Nigerian counterparts. Van Vicker, a popular Ghanaian actor, has starred in many Nigerian movies. As a result of these collaborations, Western viewers often confused Ghanaian movies with Nollywood and count their sales as one; however, they are two independent industries that sometimes share the colloquial “Nollywood”. In 2009, UNESCO described Nollywood as being the second-biggest film industry in the world after Bollywood in output and called for greater support for second-largest employer in Nigeria. With an eye to attracting an international mainstream audience, Nigerian filmmakers are increasingly turning to the West for actors like Isaiah Washington and Thandie Newton. The same developments are taking place in co-productions with filmmakers from other African countries.
Nigerian movies are available in even the most remote areas of the continent. The last few years have seen the growing popularity Nigerian films among the people of African diaspora in Europe, North America and the Caribbean. Nigerian films are receiving wider distribution as Nigerian filmmakers are attending more internationally acclaimed film festivals. In the United States, viewers can watch Nollywood and other West African movies on TvNolly, Afrotainment. Video on demand is gradually becoming part of the distribution system with platforms like Dobox, iROKOtv, AllAfricanCinema and international platforms like Distrify and Amazon Instant Video showing Nollywood video content. Afrinolly app developed in Nigeria has emerged as Africa’s most downloaded entertainment app for Nollywood and African movies, short films, documentaries, music videos, entertainment news and African celebrity profiles.