Filmhouse yanking ‘La Femme Anjola’ shows that Nollywood needs more cinemas

La Femme Anjola

La Femme Anjola director Mildred Okwo in a tweet is unhappy with Filmhouse Cinemas for yanking off her film from their schedule, leaving just four branches where it can be viewed. The noir thriller was one of the most anticipated movies of 2021 after suffering a setback due to the coronavirus pandemic last year, with star actor Rita Dominic and Nonso Bassey as leads.

Released on March 19, Anjola has spent precisely two weeks before Okwo posted her tweet, which is usually the expected theatrical window except for when movies are having a good box office run. Two weeks can extend to three weeks or even a month. Okwo stated that the reason her film was booted out was that to allow for Filmhouse to show Niyi Akinmolayan’s The Prophetess.

The Prophetess is also a movie from distribution and production powerhouse FilmOne, so it’s easy to see why their film was prioritised. FilmOne’s business model has revolved around theatrical exhibition and film production, amongst other things. What this means is that their films get to be distributed in their own cinemas, making it a tough space for other non-FilmOne movies to thrive.

Okwo recalls how her 2015 film Surulere was removed in the second week even though it was a top Nollywood film at the time. Filmhouse monopoly aside, there’s not enough cinemas in Nigeria. Nollywood still lacks cinema infrastructure to accommodate the volume of films it churns out. Nigeria’s current cinema screen penetration is very low. Filmhouse has only 12 cinemas in the country, 6 in Lagos, and although its theatrical chain run as multiplexes and not single-screen cinemas, screen capacity still needs boosting.

Comparatively, India has approximately 9,600 screens of which 2,950 are multiplex screens and multiplexes earn more than half of Indian theatrical revenues. India isn’t close to what is obtained in China, US and the UK, but it makes Nigeria look deplorable. Nollywood still needs the participation of the private sector to establish more cinema houses, and while this would shake up the Filmhouse hegemony, it puts filmmakers in a position to recoup more box office profits.

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