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Nigerian Cinema How to make money away from the big screen

Apart from showcasing your movie at the cinema, you can also make money from alternative means.

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"Green White Green" a 2016 produced movie has seen success outside the cinema circuit play

"Green White Green" a 2016 produced movie has seen success outside the cinema circuit

(Abba Makama)

Cinema is a growing business in Nigeria after the collapse in the 90s.

Nigeria once had a strong and vibrant cinema culture but it all started to dwindle from the late 80s thanks to piracy and the production cost.

The fall of cinema led to the rise of home videos in the 90s and by extension Nollywood. Filmmakers found home videos too restrictive in theme and creativity.

30 unforgettable Nollywood home videos you should watch play

The poster for the Nollywood classic Sakobi released in 1998

(Zeb Ejiro Films )


Cinema came back to Nigeria (Lagos really) in 2004 when Ben Murray Bruce opened Silverbird Cinemas in Victoria Island. Nigerians could now watch the latest Hollywood blockbusters in HD quality.

Silverbird Galleria, home to SilverbirdCinemas play

Silverbird Galleria, home to SilverbirdCinemas



Nigerians started going back to the cinema but it did little or nothing for the local movie ecosystem. Nigerians preferred and trusted the big Hollywood movies to local movies.

All that has changed now. The big movies in the cinema are Nollywood movies which are locally produced. The 2016 hit "The Wedding Party" is set to hit the N450m mark soon in box office sales.

The Wedding Party official poster play

The Wedding Party official poster


Comedian and movie producer AY has produced two movies that have shattered the box office and are considered local block busters. The 2017 comedy 'Banana Island Ghost' is tipped to hit N100m, maybe N200m by industry experts.

The boom in Nollywood movies shown in the cinema is a welcome development but not for all. The top grossing Nigerian movies belong to the comedy genre. Other genre of movies hardly make money, are flops or are not even considered worthy to be put on screen.

Movies outside the comedy genre such as "Arbitration" did low numbers and movie distributors are hesitant to pick such films. Nollywood is pretty much like the music industry. Mainstream Nigerian artists have stuck to one sound (the new trend is known as pon pon music). In Nollywood, everybody wants to shoot a comedy.

The Arbitration play

The Arbitration


This trend even though it has produced big bucks is alienating other creatives in the industry. Directors and filmmakers who don't produce comedy movies might find it hard to put their movies on the big screen.

Nollywood might be one-way traffic right now but there are other avenues for which a director can showcase his work and make money.

Let's use the director of "Green White Green" Abba Makama as an example. His movie was turned down by Film One because it didn't have the ingredients to draw a large crowd to the box office. He was however advised to screen his movie at film festivals around the globe and that is what he just did.

Abba Makama is making money from his movie without it being on the big screen play

Abba Makama is making money from his movie without it being on the big screen



1) Festivals Screening Fee

"Green White Green" movie poster play

"Green White Green" movie poster

(Abba Makama)


It is common for the producer of a movie to ask the organizers of a film festival for a screening fee before his movie is shown. The screening fee ranges from the genre and where the film will be premiered. A filmmaker can make a tidy sum from screening fees especially if it is low budget. Abba Makama has taken his movie to film festivals around the globe and has been paid screening fees.

2) Sell your movie to airlines

Green White Green is part of the in-flight movie roster of three airlines, Air France, Emirates and Ethiopian Airlines. This is how movie makers can sell their movie. Take it to various airlines and see if they are interested to have your movie shown during their flights. Of course, it is not for free. It might not be the silver screen but a lot of people will get to watch your movie.

3) Go On The Road

Ifeanyi Dike Jr in "Green White Green" play

Ifeanyi Dike Jr in "Green White Green"

(TIFF/Abba Makama)


Abba Makama has plans to show his movie in schools for a fee. A director or movie maker can go on the road and show his movie at various locations. The Tade Ogidan movie "Dangerous Twins" was premiered at the University of Lagos for a fee. If cinemas don't want to pick your movie you can create your own mobile cinema and take the show on the road.

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