The Record-Breaking Box Office Success of ‘A Tribe Called Judah’ is a Win for Nollywood

The Record-Breaking Box Office Success of ‘A Tribe Called Judah’ is a Win for Nollywood

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Referred to as the “Box Office Queen,” Nigerian actor and filmmaker Funke Akindele has lived up to the name, bestowed on her by Nollywood stakeholders and fans. On Thursday, the Cinema Exhibitors Association of Nigeria announced that the film, which follows a single mom with five children from five different men navigating life together, has grossed more than NGN 1 billion (around $1.1 million) in ticket sales. And this is just three weeks after its release. This is now the third time Akindele is breaking the record for Nollywood’s highest-grossing film, and the second time she’s breaking her own record. As it stands, Akindele holds the record of the top three highest-grossing Nollywood movies of all time — A Tribe Called Judah, Battle On Buka Street and Omo Ghetto: The Saga.

NGN 1 billion in ticket sales is a huge milestone for Nollywood. It is the first Nollywood film to cross this mark and did it in record time. Two weeks after its release, the film had broken the earlier record — set by Battle On Buka Street — of the highest-grossing Nollywood film. It took that film, released in December 2022, 17 weeks to make NGN 668,423,056 from the box office. But Akindele has been able to almost double that number in three weeks.

“I’m super proud of all the amazons in the Nigerian box office this Christmas…. It just shows the awesomeness, the strength, the hard work and commitment that Nigerian women put into Nigeria’s creative economy,” wrote Mo Abudu, major Nollywood stakeholder and CEO of EbonyLife Group, on Instagram along with a video of her wearing the complete The Tribe Called Judah merch alongside Akindele.

Editi Effiong, whose directorial debut The Black Book rose to become the top streaming Nigerian film on Netflix and No. 3 on the streamer’s worldwide film charts, tweeted, “There are different ways to building Nollywood and I’m so glad Funke Akindele is illuminating the cinema route in full glory. There are no monuments to those who talked, only those who did. Funke is doing. And doing again.”

The only other film that has crossed the NGN 1 billion mark is Hollywood’s superhero sci-fi from Marvel Studios — Black Panther: Wakanda Forever — which grossed NGN 1.04 billion with the help of an elaborate marketing effort that saw official premieres in Nigeria and South Africa, with stars like Lupita Nyong’o and Letitia Wright in attendance.

With her more than 20 million followers across social media, Akindele has made sure to utilize her platforms to heavily promote her film, a marketing strategy that she has become well known for. Right after the release of the trailer, Akindele posted skits, held interviews, and secured celebrity endorsements for the film, sparking anticipation and fan excitement. The promotion hasn’t stopped: since the cinema release of the film, she’s visited numerous cinemas to meet and greet with fans, and also hosted events in cinemas across the country with the movie stars and some of the country’s most loved influencers and celebrities.

If there’s anyone more deserving of this achievement, it’s Akindele. Naz Onuzo, screenwriter, producer and director, and founder of Inkblot, a movie production company in Nigeria, quoting his earlier tweet rooting for the film to reach NGN 1 billion said, “We’ve been here since the premiere. I’m so happy that this happened. So well deserved. Massive congratulations to @funkeakindele and the entire cast and crew of A Tribe Called Judah. You guys did the damn thing. You made history.”

This is an incredible feat for Akindele and, indeed Nollywood, in a year that stakeholders had feared for cinema culture as streamers like Netflix and Prime Video have become active players in the local industry. For now, we wait for the final figures A Tribe Called Judah will rake in, as we’re just three weeks into the release and her former film spent 17 weeks in cinemas.

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