With the origins of Nollywood beginning in 1926, the industry is the 3rd largest in the world churning out over 1000 movies annually across the globe. It has a growing fan base spread across Africa, Europe, North America and the Caribbean islands. Particularly, large communities in South America, with strong historical and cultural links to Nigeria form a significant followership of the industry.
Although the industry has become influential globally and in many ways influenced other African film industries, its origins are strongly rooted in the ingenuity and remarkable efforts of those who work diligently to make it a success.
The Evolution of Nollywood
In 1926 Palaver, a British romantic movie based in Northern Nigeria was the first feature film (silent movie) to feature Nigerian actors. Colonial films via the British Colonial Film Censor’s Board (FCB) formed in 1933.
Mid to Late 1960s: Growth in theatre based indigenous productions (traditional Yoruba Folk opera) from the Southwestern part of Nigeria; the rise of indigenous dramatists and playwrights. Some notable dramatists from the era include Hubert Ogunde (Authored Yoruba ronu!), Elijah Kolawole Ogunmola (Produced musical of Palmwine Drunkard) and Duro Ladipo (Authored Oba kÒ so)
This is the national day of Nigeria and is always celebrated on 1 October. It marks independence from British rule on 1 October 1960.
First Indigenous Nigerian Film ‘Kongi’s Harvest’ written by Wole Soyinka and Produced by Ola Balogun.
Oil Boom years. Increase in cinemas houses and purchasing power of movie goers. Mostly foreign content were shown at the cinemas including American, Chinese, Indian and British films. There was the occasional Nigerian actor starring in some films.
Indigenisation Decree requiring foreign owners to transfer ownership of cinema houses to Nigerians ushered in a slow decline in cinemas and introduction of colour television.
This was soon followed by a trickle of Nigerian films in cinemas, Papa Ajasco by Wale Adenuga and Mosebolatan by Moses Olaiya were a couple of the top grossing Nigerian films which comparatively did not do as well as their foreign counterparts.
Made for TV film Evil Encounter by Jimi Odumosu broadcast illegally copied onto Video Home System (VHS) tapes overnight and hawked on streets the next day
Collapse of cinema-going culture and death of night life due to economic downturn, crime and insecurity, heralding the new phase of Home Video Entertainment systems.
Digital technology begins to take hold in Nigeria, and specifically within the Entertainment industry.
Arguably the first mass-produced ‘Nollywood’ home video Living in Bondage by Kenneth Nnebue recorded on Betacam recorder and copied onto VHS sells large volume of copies and births the Nollywood Home Video phenomenon. Nollywood is BORN! Similar movies before it also lay claims on being the first.
Digital film-making takes hold in Nollywood. Affordable, duplicable and standard quality home movies are mass produced and distributed informally across Nigeria
Global recognition for Nollywood via the phenomenally successful Osuofia in London by Kingsley Ogoro becoming one of the first Nollywood international collaborations 7
Rise in cinema worthy Nollywood feature films such as Through the glass by Stephanie Okereke grossing highly at the Box office.
First Nollywood London West end (Leicester Square) Premiere – Across the Niger by Kingsley Ogoro featured on CNN, American News Network.
Nollywood Movies channel is launched in the UK as the first 24hr Nollywood movie channel in Europe premiering over 35 movies monthly.
Mirror Boy by Obi Emelonye becomes first Nollywood movie to be accepted for regional release by UK’s biggest Cinema chain, Odeon Cinema. Other critically acclaimed films like Araromire by Kunle Afolayan introduces high quality productions and experiments with new genres on Nigeria’s expanding film scene.
Nollywood grows in its international collaboration with Hollywood, securing the services of Stars such as Billy Zane, Vivica A. Fox, Isaiah Washington, Jimmy Jean Louis, Micky Rourke and Ernie Hudson
Inaugural edition of Nollywood Movies Awards is hosted in the city of Lagos.
Highest grossing Nollywood movie, 30 days in Atlanta reportedly makes over N130 million at the Box office
Nollywood churns out over 2000 straight-to-video movies a year, though the advent of what is termed New Nollywood i.e. films of a higher technical and creative content showing in cinemas around the world with multiple city premieres – is an ever increasing presence and evidence of the continuing evolution and appeal of the industry. With video on demand services growing across various platforms, Nollywood continues to reach a growing number of consumers across the world.
The growing quality in production, screen play and creative direction promises a future where Nollywood would one day compete with the production levels in Hollywood and perhaps, over take it in more ways than one.