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Tracing the History of the Nigerian Film Industry From the Peepholes to the Blockbusters

Tracing the History of the Nigerian Film Industry From the Peepholes to the Blockbusters 


From Peepholes to Blockbusters: Tracing the Vibrant History of Nollywood Cinema

For the first time in the late 19th century, peephole viewing of motion picture machines brought the art form of film to Nigeria.

The history of Nigeria cinema, colloquially known as Nollywood, a term used to refer to all films produced in Nigeria started in the late 19th and the 20th century colonial era.

Basically, the history and growth of the Nigerian film industry are typically divided into four eras;

  • Colonial Era
  • Golden Era
  • Video Film Era
  • New Nigerian Cinema Era

The first batch of motion pictures were shown in the Glover Memorial Hall in Lagos from August 12 to 22, 1903, and these were quickly replaced with better motion picture presentation systems in the early 20th century.

The first full-length feature film filmed in Nigeria was Geoffrey Barkas’ Palaver (1926), which also marked the debut of Nigerian actors in speaking roles.

The First Feature Film in Nigeria: A Milestone in African Cinema

Ade Ajiboye (Big Abass) produced SOSO MEJI, the first Nigerian Video film, in 1988. It was shown publicly at Tinuade Cinema in Oworonshoki, Lagos 

At least 3.5 million people in Nigeria were entertained by mobile cinema vans as of 1954, and the 44 theaters that were open offered free screenings of films made by the Nigerian Film Unit.

Sam Zebba’s “Fincho” (1957), the first Nigerian film to be made in color, was the first movie totally covered by the Nigerian Film Unit’s copyright.

The creation of numerous new movie theaters at that time shows how the 1960 declaration of independence influenced the growth of Nigeria’s film industries.

Due to previous theater professionals like Hubert Ogunde and Moses Olaiya making the switch to the big screen, Nigerian material in theaters expanded in the late 1960s and early 1970s, notably plays from Western Nigeria.

Following several films with average box office returns, “Papa Ajasco” (1984) by Wale Adenuga became the first blockbuster, earning about 61,000 (or roughly 21.552,673 in 2015) in three days. A year later, Moses Olaiya’s Mosebolatan (1985) likewise succeeded, earning 107,000 (about 44,180,499) in five days.

Wale Adenuga later founded the Nigerian family television sitcom “Papa Ajasco and Company” (formerly The “Ajasco Family”) in 1996. 

The television programme is a spin-off of a feature film with the same name that Wale Adenuga made in 1984 and was itself based on the comic book “Ikebe Super”. 

The “Ajasco family” and their humorous takes on pressing societal concerns are at the center of the narrative. Papa Ajasco, the womanizing patriarch, his patient wife Mama Ajasco, their mischievous son Bobo Ajasco, the neighborhood playboy Boy Alinco, the promiscuous gold-digger Miss Pepeiye, and the uneducated never-do-wells Pa James and Pa Jimoh are the primary characters. 

At its height, “Papa Ajasco” was largely regarded as Nigeria’s most popular comedy programme. It was broadcast each week in twelve African nations.

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