Nigeria has the biggest film industry in Africa and it’s called Nollywood. The name originated from a New York Times article in the early 2000s. Nollywood is a relatively new industry compared to its peers – Hollywood and Bollywood.
The first recorded Nigerian indigenous feature film was Kongi’s Harvest (1970), a play written by Wole Soyinka. However, it was Okechukwu “Okey” Ogunjiofor’s 1992 blockbuster film ‘Living in Bondage’ that opened the market and paved the way for Nollywood’s commercial success.
Nollywood, now a billion-naira industry, currently employs more than one million professionals – including actors, directors, writers, and crew members to name a few.
Nollywood generates more than ₦10 billion for Nigeria’s economy, accounting for 2% of the nation’s gross domestic product. The top five highest-grossing films in Nollywood have a sum total of 1.8 billion Naira.
In October of 2018, Kemi Adetiba’s sophomore film ‘King of Boys’ was released. It received rave reviews and grossed ₦200 million by its seventh week in the box office before selling streaming rights to Netflix in 2020.
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In November 2020, it was announced that Netflix had acquired exclusive streaming rights for King of Boys (2018), leaving no room for any other streaming platforms or sponsors. Almost 3 years later, the sequel, King of Boys: The Return of the King has been released on Netflix.
The show, which follows its protagonist, Eniola Salami (played by Sola Sobowale and Toni Tones) is a dark, crime and political show. It is about Eniola’s efforts to reassert herself in power after her return from a 5-year exile. She attempts to turn her underworld might into legitimate political power — this time aiming even higher than before.
Upon release, the show received positive reviews from critics, who praised the direction, cinematography, action sequences and performances. It catapulted to number 1 on Netflix Nigeria’s top 10 and has held that spot since Friday, the 27th when it was released.
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The top 10 list is decided by their viewership-tracking metric. A show is considered to have been viewed each time a Netflix account plays it for at least two minutes. With its returning cast and new additions like Nse Ikpe-Etim and Charles “Charly Boy” Oputa, more costumes, and locations, it is safe to assume that King of Boys: The Return of the King surpassed its predecessor in budget and turn-over.
Kemi Adetiba also did something relatively new in Nollywood and quite genius – she made and sold merchandise that was even delivered with popcorn for fans and audience to enjoy while they watched the show. Besides generating revenue, merchandise or merch is a great way to market films and tv shows.
The merchandise included KOB hats, mugs, logo t-shirts, and KOB army t-shirts. The merch was sold in Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, the UK, the USA, and Canada with an all-in-one box going for ₦24,500 in Nigeria and $60, £44, and €52 in other countries.
It is astonishing to see all that King of Boys: The Return of the King has accomplished, given that Netflix’s first African original series was cancelled despite its stellar reviews. Netflix didn’t detail the reasons behind its decision but it has been speculated that the cancellation was caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Adetiba did intend to make a sequel to the 2018 film but decided on a limited series to elevate her art. She wanted time to flesh out the characters and plot. In many ways, it can be said that ‘King of Boys: The Return of the King’ is doing for Nollywood what ‘Living in Bondage’ did in the 90s.
Kemi Adetiba introducing merchandising and selling out in less than a week shows that fans of Nollywood actually want branded souvenirs from films and tv shows they enjoy. Nigerian filmmakers can now take a cue from this and release limited merchandise to generate another form of revenue and market their work. Other streaming platforms like iROKOtv and iBAKATV can be utilized to maximize Nollywood’s revenue generation potential.
Winston Sylvanus writes in from Lagos.