Nollywood or Bust

I’m a bit of movie buff.

And by that, I mean that I follow movies religiously, learn entire filmographies, have hour long discussions, post online, engage in hype culture, want to dissect and understand every element of the craft, and love (and I mean love) breaking down movie box office.

And one ongoing Hollywood story I’ve been following in 2017 is the underperformance of Hollywood films State-side. A little context, in 2017 the following blockbusters have underperformed by at least $100million in the U.S domestic box office: Baywatch, CHiPs, Power Rangers, A Cure for Wellness, Life, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, Fate of the Furious, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, The Dark Tower, Ghost in the Shell, Alien: Covenant, Snatched, and Transformers: The Last Knight.

Now this isn’t to say that these movies have all been complete flops, many were saved by oversees box office, particularly from China. But what they represent is far more interesting. Their underperformance in U.S means that Hollywood has essentially become reliant on international box office to carry many of its products, something never before seen in cinema.

Compare Hollywood to other high grossing film industries like Nollywood and Korean Cinema. While Hollywood has always been focused on expanding their film demographics, attempting to broadcast to new nations and cultures these other film industries have maintained an inward focus, Nollywood and Korean Cinema most of all. They’re not interested in internationalising their market and stories, their films are designed to appeal to their culture and theirs alone.

A because of it, they’re flourishing.

While Hollywood is reporting a 10% decline in box office from 2016 Nollywood and Korean Cinema have both been reporting steady growth through the 21st century. And why? Well Norimitsu Onishi, the man responsible for coining the term ‘Nollywood’, believes it’s because of the inward focus of their films content. These days Hollywood spreads it’s net as far and wide as it can, employing international talent like the Wachowski sisters (makers of The Matrix) and Donnie Yen (legendary Chinese martial artist actor who was recently in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story). This tactic certainly succeeds to a degree, China’s box office accounts for nearly a third of Hollywood’s overall revenue now. But the numbers are still declining.

Hollywood didn’t become great by casting it’s net wide, it became great on the backs of American tales like westerns and classics like Bonnie and Clyde. Take a look at Nollywood and Korean cinema by comparison. They create content designed for their culture alone, telling Nigerian and Korean stories, and in doing so have generated large amounts of growth and made their export a commodity. People are more interested in a pure cultural expression rather than appeal, I for one much preferred the original Ghost in the Shell to the American remake that tried to pander to its fans.

And maybe if Hollywood wants to save itself it should look inwards, just like it’s Nigerian and Korean cousins.


Oh. E, ‘NIGERIA’S FILM INDUSTRY: NOLLYWOOD LOOKS TO EXPAND GLOBALLY’, United States International Trade Commission, 2014,, (accessed 18 August 2017).

Onishi. N, ‘Nigeria’s Booming Film Industry Redefines African Life’, New York Times, 18 February 2016,, (accessed 18 August 2017).

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