TikTok has offered itself as a bridge between short-form content for social media and big-budget blockbusters on Netflix and Amazon Prime.
The premise of the 2014 Nollywood flick Pretty Liars, starring Funke Akindele, Nse Ikpe-Etim and Queen Nwokoye is not so dissimilar from the themes that dominated the movies coming out of the Nigerian film industry almost a decade ago; a pretty woman meets a rich man and love blossoms, or golddigger meets an awful man and unsuccessfully plans an escape.
This was after all pre-pandemic, pre-Americans bathing with chlorine, pre-Afrobeats star, Rema, pre-bringing-down-the-capitalism, pre-ThatVeryDarkMan as an influential social commentator. Those were days when terrestrial TV dominated satellite when streaming movies wasn’t an idea and when major industry conversations were not headlined on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
In one scene, Akindele’s character Cleo, a golddigger meets her Waterloo. As she makes for her escape, i.e. running away from the rich dangerous suitor, he runs after her half screaming “Why are you running?”
In the age of TikTok, that powerful scene has become the soundbite of a generation. Countless pranksters, beauty influencers, American sports teams, dance groups and about every single category of content creators on TikTok have sampled the soundbite in their videos.
That scene from Pretty Liars tells of the launch pad that TikTok as an entertainment platform has offered old Nollywood, as it is called, #NollywoodY2K. The hashtag #Nollywood has been viewed some 6.5 billion times on TikTok.
The boom of Nollywood on TikTok
Since the early days of the pandemic when the platform began to experience a massive boom in Nigeria, clips of old Nollywood have formed an almost inextinguishable source of excitement for creators. There are tons of remakes of Genevive Nnaji’s classic scenes rejecting love interests, Osita Iheme and Chinedu Ikedieze as the village rascals Aki and Paw Paw. Jim Iyke offering toxic love from these old movies is also fan favourite.
The account @originalvidz_ that posts the source material for many of these videos has almost 200k followers, underscoring a huge interest in the origins of the content.
The re-emergence of Nollywood oldies content on TikTok has been in a bid to satisfy the need for the kind of content that millennial Nigerians grew up watching but for long snubbed for big-budget Hollywood cinematic projects. Industry producers and sponsors have seen compelling reasons to remake the oldies with a touch of modern-day cinematography and influencers.
In 2021, the filmmaker, Biodun Stephens (Sista and The Visit) directed a remake of Aki and Paw Paw for Play Network. The studios are also behind the remake of Living in Bondage, the film lauded as the catalyst of the Nollywood industry itself. Domitila and Glamour Girls, other classic NollywoodY2K titles that have found new acceptance on TikTok have also been remade for cinema and streaming distribution.
The Aki and Paw Paw remake was reported to have grossed over N30 million in the opening weekend alone. Living in Bondage remained the highest box office earner in 2019 after the title grossed over N168. 7 million after its debut in November of the same year.
Already, stars of that era of African filmmaking are getting themselves in on the action. Stars like Kanayo O. Kanayo (251.3K followers) and Ngozi Ezeonu (1.4 million followers) have joined the platform, churning out funny videos and behind-the-scenes clips of themselves on set.
The new Nollywood establishment or maybe the old Nollywood establishment that remained in the industry from the early years till the beginnings of this golden age of Nollywood has also turned to the platform for the launch of their shows.
Nollywood, streaming platforms and the renaissance of golden oldies
As big streamers have emerged within Africa (Showmax, Accelerate TV) and Netflix and Amazon Prime have entered the continent, naturally, TikTok offered itself as a useful tool for creating awareness and generating support for new content.
Showmax, specifically, has turned to the platform to promote some of its blockbusters including the series Wura and the reality show The Real Housewives of Lagos. This year, the red carpet event from The Real Housewives of Lagos premiere was streamed live on TikTok. It was hosted by Oluwabukunmi Adeaga.
Bukunmi, who has adopted the moniker Kie Kie, has garnered more than 2 million followers for her dance videos, fashion tips and skits, mostly peppered with reactionary clips from old Nollywood movies. She has also landed roles in huge-budget Nollywood movies with cinema releases and straight-to-streaming. In 2021, she starred in A Simple Life. Last year, she played a leading role on Ile Owo, both available on Netflix.
Her story underscores how TikTok has offered itself as a bridge between short-form content for social media and big-budget blockbusters on Netflix and Amazon Prime.
So far the hashtag #RHOLagos (The Real Housewives of Lagos) has generated 82.3M views on TikTok. #WuraShowmax has garnered over 83.1M views.
Other shows that have been pushed into the market through TikTok include the fourth Season of MTV’s hit show MTV Shuga and the live-action Barbie movie by FilmHouse. According to Nairametrics, the Barbie movie generated N177 million at the Nigerian box office in four weeks.
In the fourth quarter of this year, Nollywood content in Nigeria and Ghana garnered over 781 Million videos on the platform according to data from TikTok.
This unique fit is the bellwether for even more progress to come. The age of streaming and cinema has only just begun in Nollywood. Whatever trajectory it takes, to swim or sink, it seems TikTok will guide its way.