The latest boost local movie industries in Africa are getting is data.
Comscore, the US-based media analytics company known for providing box office measurement data, is expanding operations to nine African countries where it will “capture more than 95% of all revenue and admissions.” The company’s operations on the continent will focus on West and southern African countries including Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Namibia, South Africa, eSwatini, Zambia Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
As expected, Nollywood, Nigeria’s high-profile movie sector, has proven a big draw. With investment in cinema outlets spiking over the past decade (and with more on the way), movie earnings have grown steadily in tandem. And this growth has not been limited to Hollywood blockbusters as Nollywood hits are also earning big box office returns with an increased focus on quality rather than quantity.
But the rising box office earnings have also created the need for more accurate data on movie earnings in an industry that’s long had a culture of opacity. A long-running piracy problem has usually meant that it’s unclear how much profit, if any, filmmakers and producers earn. But with cinemas now opening up an important revenue stream in comparison to other existing earning models like DVD and VCD releases, the need for industry data is even more apparent.
While local bodies like the Cinema Exhibitors’ Association of Nigeria currently track box office earnings, they lack the credibility of a global independent player like Comscore. There has also been some skepticism from industry insiders who suggest that earnings by local Nollywood movies may be inflated especially as earnings are typically declared by filmmakers and production companies rather than independent box office data sources. Indeed, last December, Genevieve Nnaji, veteran actress and director of Lionheart, Netflix’s first original Nollywood film, accused local cinema chains of manipulating numbers to maintain a “false imagery of making box-office hits.”
While Comscore is currently focused only on West and Southern Africa, there’s a chance it might look farther across the continent as more investors make plays to build cinema infrastructure. For instance, Orange, the dominant telecoms player in the region has partnered with CanalOlympia, the cinema network owned by French media giants Vivendi, to open a chain of twenty 300-seater cinemas.