We thank Tony Abulu for his patriotism; but it is easy to recite the National Anthem when the government pays for your microphone.
After a week of incessant social media hype, I gave in to the hype surrounding Marvel Studio’s newest movie, ‘The Avengers’. The movie delivered on its promise, and was able to fit unique super heroes in one screen, without anyone overly dominating the rest of the team. In particular, the sense of humour gave the blockbuster a friendly, human feel. Most importantly, it earned $207 million in its first weekend, and eclipsed the cost of producing the movie ($220m) in 12 days. At the time of writing this article, the movie had grossed almost $1.2 billion, making it the 4th highest grossing movie of all time.
This blockbuster may not have recorded these successes if Marvel Studios did not receive a $525 million revolving credit facility from Merrill Lynch in 2005, a loan that has aided the development of 6 movies (including Iron Man, Incredible Hulk, and Thor) that usually cross reference the superheroes, locations and sub-plots. The creative process and funding were supported by an effective distribution network, Paramount Pictures. This combination of creative brilliance, effective distribution, and sufficient funding created the spectacle movie goers from Abuja to New York have enjoyed for weeks. This is how effective markets work.
In Nigeria, we are focused on a government provided funding of $200 million to stimulate the creative industry, a major reason why nations fail. In more cerebral environments, government is not a doer, but an enabler. The role of government is not financing the production of music, movies, or photos rather it should be limited to providing the right environment to attract investors in the creative industry; after all, capital will always gravitate towards good returns.
Last month, the Nigerian Export Import Bank (NEXIM) announced the first beneficiary of the NEXIM Creative Arts and Entertainment Facility, Black Ivory Communications. The company is producing a movie titled Dr. Bello, a movie on cancer with a cast that includes Isaiah Washington and Genevieve Nnaji. According to the CEO of Black Ivory, Tony Abulu, “Nigeria cannot continue to depend on oil revenue to survive. I am producing this movie to prove to the whole world that with the recognition that Nollywood is receiving even with poorly funded movies, the industry is capable of boosting the economy and at the same time, carve a better image for the country.”
We thank Tony Abulu for his patriotism; but it is easy to recite the National Anthem when the government pays for your microphone. This is another example of the wasteful expenditure that continues to plague our nation. Instead of focusing on social infrastructure, the government throws money at a private sector problem. I’ve never heard of someone dying from not being able to watch movies; moreover Nollywood already produces 50 movies a week, without government support.
A more important financing deal was sealed when Tiger Global invested $8 million in Iroko Partners, the largest distributor of Nigerian films and music. Iroko has created an alternative (online) distribution channel for the $600 million Nollywood industry, reputedly the 2nd largest movie industry in the world by volume.
By expanding this channel, companies like Iroko can export Nigerian movies to an international audience, and improve the revenue generation potential of our local movies. This is a bigger development than the government fuelled funding spree. It is an indication that international investors have started to acknowledge the Nollywood story, and if Iroko succeeds, more of such investments will happen.
Judging by the vibes coming from the ICT industry, one can expect a ban of airing movies shot on imported cameras by the Federal Government; such policies have been the norm for the last three decades. There is no sector dominated by government that thrives in Nigeria; not even football. It might be a good time to remind the cheering stakeholders in the creative industry.
Editor’s note: Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.