Cinema sales in Nigeria are struggling to bring home the bacon. According to reports, Nigerian cinemas recorded N441 million in ticket sales in March. The total admission of viewers into cinemas across the federation, for the period under review was 174,07. According to reports from the cinema exhibitors association of Nigeria, the recorded sales in March are an improvement from the N278 million sales made in February, which operators had blamed on the cash crunch, the general elections, and poor network service delivery experienced by POS operators nationwide for the decline in sales. However, this is only partly true.

The Nigerian film industry is one of the largest in the world. The industry has produced several award-winning films and is home to many talented filmmakers and actors. The entertainment industry is also a crucial sector of the economy, employing some 300,000 people directly and another 1 million people indirectly. Since 2019, the industry has generated 1 billion in revenue on a yearly basis. Nigerian cinema has been an essential part of the film industry. In 2017, Ebonylife’s The Wedding Party’ grossed over 400 million Naira ($1 million) at local cinemas. 

However, in recent times, Nigeria’s cinema industry has been struggling to stay afloat due to several factors, including piracy, poor infrastructure, and the rise of streaming platforms. According to the International Intellectual Property Alliance, Nigeria loses over $3 billion annually to piracy. The top streaming platform, Netflix recorded a 60% in the last four years since it launched in Africa. However, many Nigerians would still buy pirated copies of movies or turn to streaming platforms instead of patronizing cinemas. According to the National Film and Video Censors Board NVFCB only less than 20 percent of Nigerians are actually going to the cinema.

The COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on the cinema industry continues to linger too. Not only did the pandemic lead to the closure of cinemas, but there has also been a significant reduction in cinema attendance post-pandemic. From 2019 to 2022, the cinema exhibitors association of Nigeria recorded a 28.7% reduction year-on-year. In January 2019, cinema sales generated N286.9 million, then it peaked in January 2020, generating N333.9 million, and in 2021, cinema generated N329 million in revenue. In the last few years, cinema sales continue to rise and fall – only peaking during holiday periods or big releases or when blockbuster films show during the holiday season.

When looking at the reasons the cinema oscillates between different figures, we may consider the country’s economic state. According to the CEAN chief, Mr. Opeyemi Ajayi, a major reason sales dropped in February 2023 was due to the national cash crunch. In times of economic crisis, people often forgo their wants and focus on their needs. This means they will leave out things they deem non-essential so they may wait for a wider release which will be cheaper. For example, the March report stated that due to the cash crunch and poor network service delivery experienced in February, customers could not purchase movie tickets.

Nigeria is a cash-dependent nation. Cash is used for most transactions. It is no surprise that for many people, when they got their hands on some cash during the cash scarcity, going to the cinema was the last thing on their minds. Film lover Genevieve, says she was too occupied looking for cash to meet her daily needs to be bothered about going to the movies. “During the cash crunch, one could only get limited cash- usually not more than 5 thousand naira in cash. And when I got it, I had to think of food and transportation first,” she said. “It would have been unwise to go see a 2-hour movie, I may or may not enjoy, and would probably cost me more than 5k including transportation and cinema snacks.” For her, it helped that if she needed entertainment or a distraction, she could always watch a movie from her Netflix subscription. 

The cinema sales in March further highlight other challenges facing the cinema industry. According to the United Nations Educational, scientific and cultural organization, as of late 2021, Nollywood, the world’s second-largest movie industry, has only 251 screens. However, there is still hope for the future of cinema sales in Nigeria. There is a growing demand for Nigerian films locally and internationally, which presents an opportunity for the industry to reach a wider audience and generate more revenue. Investment and support aimed at the growth and development of the creative industry will see that the industry continues to grow and compete with other established film industries globally. 

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