While the dreaded coronavirus was wreaking havoc on businesses around the world, the film industry in Nigeria’s mainly Muslim north has been going from strength to strength. The region’s movie machine tagged Kannywood after its largest city Kano – has become the dominant source of entertainment for West Africa’s 80 million Hausa speakers.
According to AFP, the industry came alive in 1992 with just seven production companies, now it has grown to include 502 production outfits and 97 editing studios. More than 30,000 people are employed by the sector, according to the Kano chapter of the Motion Pictures Practitioners Association of Nigeria.
Northflix, Kannywood’s fledgeling online streaming platform, has seen its client base soar since authorities imposed lockdowns to contain the coronavirus pandemic in the last five months. Its subscriber base of 40,000 has nearly doubled, while revenue has tripled, CEO and co-founder Jamil Abdussalam told AFP.
“Coronavirus has been a blessing to us business-wise, despite the disruptions it has caused to the global economy,” he said.
The lockdown, which saw cinemas, hotels, bars and other recreational outlets shut down, was a boon for Northflix as idle Nigerians turned to their mobile phones to stream their favourite movies. The fee is just $4 a month in addition to subscribers’ smartphone and internet costs
That opportunity also came as producers were desperately seeking an alternative market for their films with cinemas and DVD stores shuttered.
Another gain from Northflix is in the area of extreme censorship. The industry was always under religion and state-imposed restrictions and scrutiny which filmmakers say are killing creativity. But Northflix’s location in the capital Abuja puts it beyond the jurisdiction of the Kano censoring agency.