HOW TO MAKE BIG MONEY IN CINEMA – Case Study on “My Wife and I” by Naz Onuzo

Anyone who follows my work already knows Naz Onuzo, He’s the writer and producer of “The Arbitration” and “The Wedding Party Sequel”. Naz is also a season finance expert and a very brilliant guy with great passion for Nollywood. He made a recent post on Medium but i asked to share it here on the blog since its read by lots of nollywood people.

He made a special case of “My Wife and I”, his recent cinema release. There’s a lot to learn here.

This is a thing about Nollywood Cinema Releases

So as you may know — I make movies in my spare time.

One of the movies I made is My Wife and I which pretty much left all the cinemas in Nigeria in week 7 of its release and as such now is the time for reflection.

Thankfully we are not crying because it did well and as such, first off we would like to thank our cinema audience for the support — barring a Celebrity Marriage or 2 it’s likely to end the year as one of the top ten Nigerian films at the cinema in 2017 (which is always nice)

So anyway this article is because I was looking at the figures again, and I realised that there are a number of things that I think would be useful for producers to know as they plan to release films into Nigerian cinema. We tend to talk around the learnings here, so I figured that I’d try to add a little bit to the discussion.

The chart below has the weekly box office (no figures included — natch) for the film. It shows the weekly Surulere box office, the weekly total box office, and the estimated box office given that Surulere is normally ~10% of the box office of most films. The Surulere and Estimated Grosses are used to calculate the Screen Penalty that I talk about later in the article. So here are three takeways from the performance of MWAI.

You need to open strong: Over 60% of the MWAI box office was made in the first 2 weeks of release and over 75% by week 3. Our opening weekend to final gross multipliers are high due to strong weekday business, but even with films that last long you’re pretty much done in cinemas by week 3. Even Wedding Party which stayed in cinemas for over 12 weeks made over 40% in the first two weeks and over 60% in the the first 3.

Even if you open strong you will be crowded out: This is tied to the open strong point, but from a different perspective. The average cinema in Nigeria has 4 to 5 screens (actual average for math geeks is 4.6). This means that even if your film performs well it will tail off more than it should because it will be forced out of cinemas by the arrival of new films. For most films that Screen penalty is between 10% and 20% (for MWAI it was about 15%). There’s nothing much you can do about this one, but know that it will happen and not cry too much when you see those week 4 and week 5 showtimes.

Marketing is now more important: Take these two above points together — the front loading of box office and the constraints of the cinema houses — and marketing becomes even more important. Filmmakers need to convince people to come out early to watch their films and that means increased marketing. It also doesn’t help for you (though it’s good for the industry) that there are increasing numbers of Nollywood films out in the cinemas (should hit 70 to 80 this year). As a result you have to spend more to stand out. You used to be able to get away with N3m to N5m, but these days think N7m to N10m ex premiere — a friend of mine even says N20m but lets not get carried away, let’s save that for when we have 50 cinemas.

You can argue that everything in this article is obvious, but if you are like me -sometimes it’s good to see the data that supports the obviousness.

So there you have it — hope at least one or two of you find this useful.



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