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TK's MORNING BUZZ: Welcome to the Home Video Boom in Nigeria, Where There Are Few Imports, Fewer Theaters and 30,000 VCR-Equipped 'Video Clubs'

14 Aug, 2001 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Friday was a tough day. We're putting the finishing touches on the fourth annual DVD Awards, which Video Store Magazine this year is producing, and coordinating all the entries, judging and general logistics is keeping our staff busier than we've been since Show Daily time.

What better way to end the day than to scan the wire service reports and find an article with the tantalizing headline, "Home Video Booming in Nigeria."

"Despite power outages, low budgets and ailing equipment, the art of filmmaking is booming in the West African nation of Nigeria — but not up on the big screen," the article maintains.

"With only a few dozen movie theaters in a country of 120 million — and none in the commercial capital, Lagos, Africa's largest city — filmmakers are reaching audiences the only way they can: on home video. 'We don't have any multiplex cinemas, so if you want to watch a movie here, you've got to watch it on video cassette,' says director Mahmood Ali-Balogun."

Apparently a government plan back in the 1970s to boost the native film industry by discouraging imports ended up killing many movie theaters. Add to that the proliferation of VCRs and cheap and simple digital video cameras and you've got, well, a booming market in homegrown direct-to-video fare.

Most of the movies are sold rather than rented for a few dollars each, the article says. "Others screen in what passes for public cinemas: dirt-floored rooms equipped with a TV, a VCR and wooden benches."

And yet Nigerians don't seem to mind. Indeed — starved of imported fare for so long, they've come to like the native stuff their countrymen produce. The facts and figures: Last year, 650 movies were produced in Nigeria, up from 205 in 1995, according to the National Film and Video Censors Board. The average film costs $30,000 to $50,000 to produce, takes one week to shoot and another to edit, and is then distributed on 50,000 to 100,000 video cassettes to Nigeria's network of some 30,000 "video clubs." The industry is valued at about $50 million a year, no small potatoes in a country where most people earn just a few dollars a day.

The article notes that Nigerian films are so popular that video stores as far away as London have begun carrying them, targeting African immigrants.

And there's no end in sight, with the government refusing to help the theatrical industry — what's left of it — because it's too busy building soccer stadiums.

Food for thought.

Comments? Contact TK directly at:TKArnold@aol.com

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