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23.11.2008 Nollywood Affairs

Global cash crunch hits Nollywood

By Samuel Olatunji
Jackie AppiahJackie Appiah

•The Ghanaian connection

•Rise and rise of Yoruba film industry

Though it is cheery news that the cash crunch invading the world like the biblical plague in the time of Moses is showing signs of subsiding, the effect of the global cash crunch has, however, changed the power equation and landscape of the Nigerian movie industry otherwise known as Nollywood.

In Nollywood, money is everything just like in any other show business. Nigerian marketers hold the ace because they fund most movie projects. Long before the global cash crunch became pronounced, Nollywood has been experiencing it own kind of cash crunch. Money has been scarce. And that is why it is real hard today to find a blockbuster movie featuring as many as four to five A-list artists in Nigeria.

'Anyone who tries that will go bankrupt' a movie producer said when we sought his opinion. “If you pay about five A-list acts between N800 000 to N1 million and you still have many other expenses to look at, how do you want the producer to make his money back? If you try that, you will go bankrupt. In fact, I'm sure no one is trying that now.”

For instance, the lavish luxury of having for instance Omotola, Genevieve, Emeka Ike, Ramsey Nouah and the likes in your movie is gone. The reason for the change in equation is simple: investors, especially marketers, are no longer making their money back. And these set of actors are among the highest paid in the market.

Even banks and other corporate bodies that show some interest in investing into the burgeoning industry are fast becoming disinterested. Reason? This is not the time to invest into something that won't yield desired returns or the invested capital.

So in the wake of this financial crisis in Nollywood, everybody is now looking for alternatives and Ghanaians are now the emerging new faces in Nollywood. They serve as 'perfect' alternatives to core investors.

Investors in Nollywood are now becoming shrewd with their investment and are always looking for avenues to cushing the effect of the global financial turmoil hence the 'invasion of Nollywood' by the Ghanaian element.

Investors practically beg them to come on board and rescue the tight financial situation in the industry. How? By using the Ghanaians, more Nollywood movies will penetrate the emerging Ghanaian market. That is why the likes of Mojid, Nadia Bhuari, Jackie Appiah, and Van Vikers are taking the front burners, even ahead of Nollywood's more talented acts.

Another alternative the investors are exploring is that of 'emerging new talents.' The reason many new acts are fast emerging on the Nigeria movie scene is not because of the magnanimous nature of the practitioners, but they came as children of necessity. That is also the reason why many of them disappear as they come.

Nollywood investors realize that it pays more to make use of the Ghanaians and new acts that take lesser money, compared to the established acts like Nkem Owoh and co.

As of now, Nollywood is groping in darkness awaiting new direction. That is the main reason many look unto the new framework from NFVCB, hoping the policy would emerge the long awaited saviour.

But many onlookers are unfazed by the new fad. 'This is Nollywood for you. It will soon pass like many of its past fads. Mark my word; many of these so-called Ghana stars and new stars will soon fade away.

They came in as children of necessity and they will go when the condition becomes normal', one producer told us. Perhaps that explains the real reason many new local acts fade as soon as they come.

In the wake of this development, consumers are increasingly looking for better ways to be entertained. Attention has shifted to Yoruba movies (indigenous language movie). Yoruba movie industry that has been in the shadow of English movie is fast catching up and gaining unprecedented prominence, especially in the market place as against its English counterparts.

Home video consumers, having grown tired of the low quality products of English movies occasioned by the 'undercut' many engage in because of cash crunch, are fasting turning to alternatives as well. Their alternatives are foreign and Yoruba movies which is spreading its tentacles all over the world. Yoruba movies are like hot cakes now. Many of the producers are taking this opportunity to churn out more movies. The likes of Funke Akindele and Saheed Balogun are leading the pack. The irony is that the more movies they release, the more they sell. This is a far cry from what is happening in the English sector.

Will this power equation last? We have our doubt; Nollywood is like Charly Boy Show anything can happen!

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