Vice President, Association of Movie Producers (AMP), Forster Ojehonmon, spoke to OMIKO AWA on what the country is losing by not engaging the movie industry and the way forward for cinema in the country.
Do we really have a cinema culture in the country?
The cinema culture is gradually getting entrenched, but there is plenty of work to be done to make it more active.
This is because those who go to cinemas are mainly the elite.
One of the reasons this culture is still not as vibrant as it should be, is the inadequacy of screens, and even the few that are available are located mainly in highbrow areas of our cities.
So, at the end of the day, we do not have enough of the population watching or going to cinemas.
Community cinemas are important and screening centres in local communities and villages will improve the situation. The summary is that we do not have enough cinemas to cater for the growing audience.
Most of the movies shown in these few cinemas are foreign ones, is it that we do not produce enough movies to cater for the few cinemas around?
No, that is not the case. Our cinemas still show foreign films because Nigerians like them. Consequently, cinema owners have to please their patrons with what they like to in order for them to make their money.
Again, the publicity and advertising budgets of these foreign films are enormous and we cannot compete with their budget.
Even though Nollywood is making a lot of films, our budget is still too low, in fact, poor is the word to compete favorably with foreign films.
We can only compete when investors partner practitioners.
What kind of support can the government offer to change the narrative?
Government’s policy to protect the industry is one of the ways. Government cannot sit and expect magic from filmmakers without adequately encouraging a thriving cinema culture and working towards a vibrant movie industry.
There should be some form of protection and regulations for practice too.
Also, the broadcasting commission should be careful with the agreements they go into with foreign television stations, as it has been seen that these stations, through this means, flout the rules and play smart, a development, which is not healthy for television or the movie industry.
Distribution and building of cinemas are different way of improving the system. The Nigerian movie industry was built without government’s help, but it has reached a point where government has to come and protect it.
There should be grants to practitioners, as well as structures to make the industry to grow and live up to expectations, just like we have in other climes.
Nollywood has helped to improve Nigeria’s image across the globe, as such, government should invest in it.
Is Nigeria losing by not paying adequate attention to cinema in particular and the movie industry in general?
Nigeria is losing over N2b yearly from not engaging its cinemas or the movie industry. It is so disheartening because after oil and gas, entertainment should be the next highest revenue earner.
This is so because of the multiplier effect of one production in Nollywood and the revenue it would generate when taxed at the optimum level, which could be more than what five oil and gas companies could generate for the government.
Just imagine where a production company expends N100m on an international production, which would be shown in the United States, Canada, China, France and many others. If it has a box office hit, the gross revenue in US dollars could amount to $150m.
Imagine what the tax would be if such amount is brought into the country; it could run into hundreds of millions of naira from just one production company.
In fact, the Nigerian government is still sleeping, so, it needs to wake up and come to terms with the revenue it could realise from the cinema and Nollywood.
Do you know that we do not have co-production treaty with countries like the United States of America, Canada, China, South Africa and others? And as a result of this, production funds from foreign investors are not coming.
Even when a production company goes into that kind of agreement and a foreign investor discovers that Nigeria has no production treaty with his country, he will at once cancel the deal because he is not protected.
Government should wake up to its responsibilities and tidy the loose ends that would make the sector attract foreign investors.
Entertainment is the main stay of some countries and Nigeria can make good money yearly from it if the government takes another look at Nollywood, which has massive employment opportunities for our youths and foreign investments.
At what point did we start getting it wrong, and how can the situation be corrected?
The decay started in the 1990s when Nigerians started registering their preference for Nollywood films to Hollywood movies.
It was at that point that government should have protected the growing industry (Nollywood ) then by making laws to discourage piracy and doing other things, which include putting a structure in place, as well as grants and incentives for filming in the country.
Heavy taxes should have been placed on foreign productions and foreign films coming into the country.
However, going forward, government should sign production treaties with USA, Canada, India, South Africa, China and others that are interested in watching us.
Also, grants and incentives should be given to producers, while encouraging private investment in community cinemas.
There should as well be cinemas in all local government areas in Nigeria. Guilds and associations should also be strengthened so that Nollywood would not be an all comers affair.
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