BY FUNKE OSAE-BROWN
Nigeria’s film industry, popularly known as Nollywood, is losing well over N7.5 billion to piracy annually, says Gabriel Okoye, chief executive officer, G-Media limited, a major film marketing and distribution company.
Okoye who spoke in an exclusive interview with BusinessDay, described this estimate as modest, considering the high volume of films produced in Nollywood annually, as well as the high piracy rates.
He said Nollywood produced an average of 1,000 films a year and that between 600 and 700 of these had budgets of below N10 million.
He added that of the remaining 300 films produced, 200 were class ‘B’ and that for this category, the budget per film was between N10 million and N20 million.
The remaining 100, he explained were classified as “blockbusters” and that each had a budget of between N50 to N150 million.
This brings the total cost summation for films produced in the country annually, to at least N16.5 billion.
Okoye further said that, “money lost to piracy is far more than my estimate. As we speak, three of my projects have been pirated. At least six of my films are pirated yearly.”
He said he lost over N450 million to pirates on three blockbuster films.
This indicates that about N75 million is lost to piracy per blockbuster film. Multiplied by the 100 blockbuster films produced, the total sum lost to piracy on blockbuster films alone, comes to about N7.5 billion.
It is said that piracy in the country is hard to crack, because many of the culprits are former Nollywood stakeholders.
Kunle Afolayan whose latest film, ‘October 1’ is currently being pirated, said he is yet to make half of the money he spent on producing the movie before the pirates swooped in.
“I don’t have the exact figure of how much I have lost to piracy on all my films, especially ‘October 1’. But I can tell you that I am yet to make half of the money I spent in making ‘October 1’. I am yet to make N100 million from a movie on which I spent N200 million,” he said.
Another ace filmmaker Tunde Kelani, said he has likewise lost millions to piracy. His films ‘Maami’ and ‘Arugba’ have been pirated.
“A state of emergency needs to be declared against piracy and government needs to make liable those who buy pirated works. We have lost millions to piracy,” he said during the one-day walk against piracy held in Lagos recently.
Meanwhile, Okoye claimed that the bulk of film pirating takes place at the Alaba International Market in Lagos, or is conducted by people with links there.
“Some of those who are engaged in piracy,” said Okoye, “used to be marketers who at one time or the other, owned a single shop or none at all. To be a successful marketer you must have outlets all over the country.”
He further stated that it was well known that some strong-arm groups were paid to escort pirated material across the country at night.
It is very common to see young men hawking pirated copies of foreign and local films in traffic jams in Lagos and other cities.
Segun Arinze, former president of the Actors Guild of Nigeria, said movie marketers had been fighting piracy alone. “It is a big monster that we must all come together to fight,” Arinze added.
“I was very upset while driving one day and a hawker wanted to sell pirated copies of ‘30 Days in Atlanta’ to me. The minute we begin to fight piracy, the gains will be there for us. We will all enjoy it. Our royalties as artistes will be paid. Intellectual property is sacrosanct,” he further said.
In the last five years, the Nigerian film industry has been growing in terms of output and quality. It has been rated the third most valuable movie industry in the world, behind America’s Hollywood and India’s Bollywood.
Roberts Orya, managing director/chief executive officer Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM), said in an earlier report that Nollywood generated not less than $590 million in 2014.
According to Orya, “Nollywood produces about 50 movies per week making it the second largest film industry in the world, behind India’s Bollywood in terms of volume of production. In revenue, Nollywood is third, behind Hollywood and Bollywood.”
Orya pointed out that, “Africa Renewal, a publication of the United Nations, reported in its May 2013 edition, that the African film industry (in which Nollywood is by far dominant), would contribute significantly to the expected 5.2 percent GDP growth projection for the continent in the year.”
Analysts say several films are pirated daily across the country, cramping the bottom line of filmmakers who have invested huge resources in producing quality films.
According to them, inadequate distribution networks had also forced banks not to give filmmakers the necessary financial assistance to further develop the industry.
‘October 1’ is not the only film by Afolayan that has been pirated. His well acclaimed comic thriller; ‘Phone Swap’ has been pirated with copies littering the streets. Ayo Makun’s ‘30 Days in Atlanta,’ which has been named the highest grossing movie at the cinema, was pirated three months ago.
Also, ‘Half of a Yellow Sun,’ an adaptation of an eponymous novel, written by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, was pirated before it hit the theatres.
The movie cost the producer, Yewande Sadiq, about N1.2 billion to make.
In a country where it is hard for filmmakers and marketers to access funds, a few filmmakers like Kunle Afolayan and Okoye, who have borrowed money from the Bank of Industry to enable them properly market and distribute well produced films that have great potentials for sale are being defeated by pirates.
Said Okoye, “I borrowed the money to make sure films are properly distributed. I acquired ‘Half of A Yellow Sun’ and ‘30 Days in Atlanta.’ I was planning how to sell ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ when I was told it was already on the street. The movie was not released again. I was planning the same for ’30 Days in Atlanta’ but I told the producer I could not longer carry on and he gave it to someone else to release.
“ How can a film producer borrow more than N150 million to do a film and he has not gotten anything in return?”
There have been many dimensions to how films are pirated. Okoye explained that some staff of cinema houses were selling films to the Alaba pirates. Although the management was in the know, they made frantic efforts to protect the films given to them.
“We are working with the cinema houses,” said Okoye. “They are making frantic efforts to get those people who are selling films. Usually, films are given to them in DVDs or flash drives. We want to stop that now and begin to encode films given to them with DCP. Most producers don’t give them films that are protected.”
Another film producer, Wale Adenuga, said the factor that contributed to the high level of piracy in the country was the fact that some producers still do direct-to-home video format. According to him, the promotion of cinema culture could greatly reduce piracy, as cinema houses should be open in all the 774 local government areas in the country.
Adenuga said this would offer producers the opportunity to screen their films all over the country and with a reasonable measure of security.
However, some smart filmmakers are turning to digital distribution as an alternative means of marketing their films. The online platform for digital film distribution in the country is growing and among those dominating the market are iRoking, iTunes and Netflix.
Afolayan, whose latest film, ‘October 1’, has bagged a distribution deal with Netflix, one of the biggest global online distribution platforms, experienced a huge setback when the film was pirated some weeks ago.
“I was happy and delighted to announce that ‘October 1’ has got a deal with Netflix. Netflix covers the whole of Europe and America. That means the film will be exposed to the world. It is a distribution deal. Netflix is an SVOD platform, an online platform that you can watch on your television. Their application is everywhere. They are one of the most recognised SVOD platforms around the world.”
Culled from BusinessDay. www.businessdayonline.com