London — Nigeria's Filmhouse Cinemas and Film One Distribution have quietly built themselves a significant audience in their cinemas by giving them something slightly better than run-of-the-mill Nollywood films. Released late last year, their Rom-Com The Wedding Party has already become the biggest box office hit in terms of gross revenues. Russell Southwood spoke to Moses Bapatope, Group Executive Director, Filmhouse Cinemas and Film One Distribution and Production and Executive Producer, The Wedding Party
The man who executive produced The Wedding Party started life as a student working for the UK cinema chain, Odeon Cinemas. He worked his way up to become a Manager at the Odeon Greenwich. Here he started promoting Nollywood cinema events. He ran the first Nollywood film premiere (The Successor) in a mainstream cinema chain in 2006. I first met him in 2011 when came to talk to me about these events before he went back to Nigeria to work at Filmhouse.
So why was The Wedding Party such a big hit?:"Timing was really good for us. Over the years we've been cultivating an audience and over the years the quality of film-making in Nigeria has been getting better. 2016 was the year where we got a bit more recognized critically by the world of film."
It had eight films in the 2016 Toronto Film Festival - one of which was The Wedding Party - and it also had 76 shown at the London Film Festival::"(The Wedding Party's) a story that Nigerians would have loved to have seen themselves in."
Netflix bought it and although he's not seen the formal use figures yet, he can see it appearing all over social media:"We're very happy with what we've been hearing so far". He thinks that Netflix is a great platform because it bridges a gap in reaching the Nigerian and African diasporas.
The gross for the film so far has been N452 million, which is about US$1.4 million at the official rate from showing in 29 screens:"We're still just scratching the surface... That's maybe 450,000 tickets and if you take out the repeat visits, that's around 350,000 unique visits in a country with an addressable audience of 60 million".
"When you hit 1 million admissions on a film, that's when you'll begin to see that this is really oil business. I think we're getting there as we get bolder and more bullish in opening cinemas we'll begin to see more record numbers.
Its follow-up, Wedding Party - Part 2: Destination Dubai will be released in December 2018 and will be part of a slate of five films, including one from comedian AY. The full list of films can be found in the video clip interview at the end of this article.
"We have an idea of the quality demands of our audience and what amounts of money we should be spending to give them the product they want."
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