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AY's 'Almajiri' flops at Nigerian box office with ₦5 million, here's why

The lack of proper marketing alone spells doom for the new movie.

BTS of 'Almajiri' movie executive produced by AY Makun [@aycommedian]

Opening in Nigerian cinemas on June 23, 2023, the figures from the Cinema Exhibitors Association of Nigeria (CEAN) show that the new title made only ₦5,425,050 across 54 locations over the weekend.

This is low even by Nigerian standards considering that other 2023 releases like Domitilla: The Reboot opened with ₦10 million, and The Kujus Again raked in ₦17 million in its first week.

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Over the years, AY has made a name for himself as the Nollywood Box Office King by consistently putting out commercially successful films.

His last movie, Christmas in Miami (2021), earned ₦265,583,000 and is still one of the highest-grossing local films of all time.

Prior projects, Merry Men: The Real Yoruba Demons (2018) and Merry Men 2: Another Mission (2019), brought in ₦235,628,358 and ₦234,505,169, respectively.

So, what happened with Almajiri? For one, there was very little pre-release marketing, which is a proven strategy to attract potential moviegoers. Just look at the crazy, non-stop promo for Barbie or Funke Akindele's in-your-face online marketing, if you don't believe us.

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The film’s official trailer and character posters dropped the day before its release, which is not enough time to create the kind of buzz you need for a new project, especially a non-comedy title.

Even with 13 million followers, simply posting posters, clips and the cinema schedule is an inadequate attempt to get people excited enough to get out of their homes and spend money on a new movie in this economy.

We also could not help but notice the absence of mainstream marketing upon the movie's release. Apart from a few clips on AY's Instagram page and a one-day paid Twitter campaign over the weekend, not much else has been done to promote the project. For someone, who usually knocks it out of the park with his projects, its puzzling to see this underwhelming rollout.

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There is also the subject matter. The comedian has previously had success by sticking to his lane and making comedy; this time, he chose to shed light on the heartbreaking struggles faced by Almajiri children in Northern Nigeria.

Based on true stories, Almajiri follows two young children who were separated from their parents by Alhaji Makarfi. Under his 'care', they deal with chronic illness, abuse, trafficking, drug addiction, poverty, violence, and forms of child slavery.

While this is no doubt an extremely important issue, the domestic box office has shown time and time again that comedy sells most of the time, so it should go without saying that choosing to tell this story should have come with an extremely fat marketing budget.

Then, there is the stiff competition from international titles. Right now, the top four slots at the box office are occupied by The Flash, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse, and The Little Mermaid. With these four leading, AY has his work cut out for him if Almajiri is going to stand a chance.

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Still, the filmmaker's decision to highlight this troubling issue is worth commending, as proven by the recognition the movie received before its release at the 2022 Africa International Film Festival (AFRIFF) and the Toronto International Nollywood Film Festival (TINFF), where the movie won twelve awards.

Directed by Toka McBaror and co-produced by Darlington Abudu, the movie stars Alex Ekubo, Annie Idibia, Kanayo O. Kanayo, Segun Arinze, Ali Nuhu, Rahama Sadau, Sani Danja, Broda Shaggi, and AY.

With only one weekend in cinemas and the upcoming release of Big Love, it's up to AY and his team to up the ante on the marketing for Almajiri, if only to get more people to pay attention to the troubling system that takes advantage of millions of children in Northern Nigeria and other countries.

Watch the trailer below:

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Pulse Editor's Opinion is the opinion of an editor at Pulse. It does not represent the views of the organisation Pulse.

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