The immediate effects of coronavirus on the Nigerian movie industry are already being felt.
When President Muhammadu Buhari’s first announced a 14-day national lockdown on March 31 to combat COVID-19, it abruptly halted the activities of industries across Nigeria.
Those immediately impacted by the lockdown directive include the Nigerian film industry and its workforce, which largely survives on daily wages.
Many Nigerian filmmakers like ‘Omoni Oboli who was shooting a new Tv series, ‘Last Year Single’, had to halt the production abruptly.
The COVID-19 outbreak has, no doubt, sparked a dramatic first for movie industries across the world. As the lockdown persists, filmmakers are screening their movies for free on online platforms like YouTube.
A Nigerian filmmaker, Kayode Kasum, recently premiered his 2018 movie project,’ ‘Oga Bolaji’ on YouTube for free.
The likes of Kasum have found a way to monetise their works by uploading some of their classics on YouTube.
His counterparts in the U.S have also resorted to streaming their films online since cinema houses might not be reopening anytime soon.
Nigerian cinema operators count losses
As cinemas and movie theatres remain closed across the world, the global box office revenues have dropped significantly.
Online streaming sites like Showmax and Netflix are experiencing Coronavirus-led subscriber growth.
Netflix added 15.8 million new subscribers during the three months that ended on March 31. A financial advice platform, fool.com, said the figure was more than double the company’s own estimate of seven million new additions.
But while movie streaming sites owners rake in cool cash this period, film exhibitors are counting losses.
Cinema Exhibitors Association of Nigeria (CEAN) said they have lost as much as 30 per cent of their weekend revenues since January.
According to them, between January 17 and 19 Nigerian cinemas grossed N75.9m. The figures dropped by 20.8 per cent to N60.1 million by the first weekend of February.
At the beginning of March, the figures dwindled further to N54.9 million, and two weeks after, the figures stood at N45,283,647.
Nigerian cinema exhibitors and operators say the industry’s revenue dropped by as much as 30.65 per cent between January and March 2020.
There is no respite for now as the Coronavirus pandemic has already taken a huge toll on the industry.
PREMIUM TIMES also interviewed three Nigerian actors about the impact of the coronavirus on filmmaking.
Actor and filmmaker, Segun Arinze
I had so many projects I was working on. It’s just like any other business, we always have something going on that must have been affected by this lockdown in one way or the other.
I had a lot of things I’ve kept on hold because we just have to follow instructions and we hope this will end soon so that we can go back to our daily routine.
I can’t say this has not affected our income as actors but it’s not every part of filmmaking that we do outdoors.
Just like you’re doing your own work now, we have things we do from home like scriptwriting, we have meetings and conferences online.
A while ago, I was having an online class with some of my students. However, the lockdown has actually affected many of our actors, financially.
Even before the lockdown, some of them have had to stop acting because of Ill-health or other things. In circumstances like these, some actors don’t have money to fall back on.
That is why I have been talking about having residual money in the industry. I plan to speak with the president of the actors’ guild about this. There are countries where actors employ this means to help their colleagues out.
Yoruba actor, Funsho Adeolu
I just finished on a movie set when the lockdown started. I was at home preparing to go on another set. Unfortunately, we can no longer go on sets because of the lockdown. For an actor that is always working, the lockdown is really boring for me. There’s no work to do and nowhere important to go.
As a celebrity, people are always flocking into your house to ask for money and food. Because I know these things affect us at varying degrees, I do my best for them.
People will see you on the road and expect you to drop something, whereas, we are not even making any money at the moment.
Acting is not like civil service where your salary comes in, whether you work or not. Here, you have to work to make money. Not everybody finds it easy, even before the lockdown.
That is why, I do my best to reach out to people every month, especially the elderly actors that cannot work as much or at all. I pick at least two every month and reach out to them, as much as I can.
I still do that and I encourage a few people that I can talk to, to do it as well. If we all make little efforts like that, it will eventually become big. It has gotten to a point where we cannot continue to look up to the government to do things for us. We have to take responsibility and pick things up by ourselves.
Actor, Yemi Solade
Is it important to ask these questions now? You guys will sell your papers. You’re not bringing palliative measures to say let’s give to these people and you want me to start telling you how I’m coping with the lockdown? Why don’t you tell me how you’re coping first?
Let’s just leave my projects and all for now. I’m not interested until COVID-19 is over.
You’ll sell your newspaper, there’s nothing I’m going to benefit from telling you about these things. You’re earning a salary, I’m not. Nobody is going to pay me anything. No palliative has been offered to me so I don’t see what I’m going to benefit talking to you.