Nollywood movies to target U.S. audience with pay-per-view launch


Actor, John Dumelo, left, cinematographer, Tim Wilson, center, and director, John Uche, right, watch a playback during filming on the set of the Nollywood movie, "One Night in Vegas" on Thursday March 28, 2013 in Brookeville, MD. (Matt McClain/THE WASHINGTON POST)

A Largo-based media company has signed an expanded deal to distribute Nollywood movies on demand.

The deal between Brandcast Media and Comcast, Time Warner, Cox and Brighthouse cable TV service providers includes a plan to launch 10 of the top Nollywood movies through pay-per-view channels this summer, introducing more Nollywood movies to American mainstream audiences.

“The whole point of what we are doing is trying to get Nollywood movies to attract audiences in the United States,” said Perry Umoh, president and chief executive of Brandcast Media. “This is the first attempt to get more money for producers before pirates get a hold of these movies.”

Nollywood is the second-largest movie industry in the world in terms of the number of movies produced. The industry pumps out thousands of movies a year, coming second in film production behind India’s Bollywood but leading Hollywood in the number of movies made. Nollywood, which originated in Nigeria and has swept to Ghana, Cameroon and the Caribbean, has consistently confronted problems with movie pirates who quickly make copies of the movies, which are released on DVDs. The pirates then sell the movies at drastically reduced prices — virtually cutting out any profits that could be made by producers.

Umoh said that as Nollywood producers attempt to make bigger-budget movies and improve the quality of the films, which are known for their addictive story lines and dramatic acting, it is imperative that the Nollywood film industry cut down on piracy.

“The pirates were pocketing 75 percent of profits,” Umoh said.”The producers were not getting their money. The investors were reticent because they could not see how they could get their money back.”

Umoh said distributing the movies through the cable companies’ on-demand services would allow for better and bigger budget productions.

“It is so important for producers to see there would be returns,” Umoh said. “The only way to see that is through central and controlled distribution channels before the pirates can make copies. This takes away the power of the pirates and gives it back to the producer.”

The deal has the potential to make as much as $40 million for the Nollywood film industry, Umoh said. “We believe with an aggressive marketing campaign, we would have a million households viewing these movies,” Umoh said. “There are over 20 million African and Caribbean viewers in the United States. We know where they are. We believe if we can get 2.5 percent penetration, we can get a million views.”

The “10 best Nollywood” movies set to be released through the cable TV service providers this summer are “Bianca,” “The Mirror Boy,” “Last Flight to Abuja,” “Broken,” “Mind Game,” “Ije,” “The Entrapped,” “Page 36,” “The Lost Number,” “Unguarded,” “When We Cry,” “Bird of Sacrifice” and “House of Gold,” a drama starring two of the biggest actors in Africa: Majid Michel and Yvonne Nelson.

DeNeen L. Brown is an award-winning staff writer at The Washington Post who has covered night police, education, courts, politics and culture.
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