Disney is such a huge brand in Hollywood that it's hard to think about a place across the globe where the name doesn't reach. But Disney knows there are such markets, and they're always looking to expand.
That brought them to Africa, specifically Nigeria, to broker a deal with Nollywood.
Nollywood is the name given to the Nigerian film industry, which is one of the largest in the world. They make so many movies that they rank right below India's Bollywood and above Hollywood in quantity.
That means the appetite is great, so Disney is joining forces with a Nigerian production and distribution company to market some of its new releases, like Mulan, in English-speaking West Africa. The deal makes FilmOne Entertainment the sole distributors of Disney-owned films in Nigeria, Ghana, and Liberia. That's a huge market.
"It is a major career highlight, that we're able to get the world's biggest movie studio as a partner," Moses Babatope, a director at FilmOne, told CNN.
"What the deal means is that we are exclusive marketers and distributors of Disney titles in the English-speaking West African countries that have studio licensed cinemas. We will distribute the films to all those cinemas in the territory," he explained.
The agreement covers titles from all Disney studio divisions including Pixar, Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Pictures, and Blue Sky pictures. That covers hundreds of titles and some of the biggest movies of all time.
"With their in-depth knowledge of the region and expertise in bringing theatrical releases to fans, we are thrilled to welcome FilmOne as our distribution partner for this territory," Disney Africa's country manager, Christine Service said in a statement.
So what does this deal mean to Nigeria?
"This deal is huge because it means that Disney is paying attention. Their presence can open doors for movie collaborations," said Shola Thompson, a Nigeria-based film consultant. Thompson continued, "It's true that a lot of the content we will be distributing are from other parts of the world but if we are able to demonstrate that we are accountable and transparent, then there will be room to attract future investments involving content from this region."
Disney cares about Nollywood, and thus the rest of the world might begin to care. That means wider distribution for their movies and possibly more money added to production accounts if people think they can become profitable.
I wonder if there are Nollywood titles headed to Disney+ as well. Or maybe some co-productions.
This is not just about Disney either. In 2019, FilmOne Entertainment signed a deal with Chinese media giant Huahua to co-produce the first major China-Nigeria film and Canal+ acquired leading Nollywood film studio, ROK film studios to create more hours of Nigerian content for its French-speaking audience.
Movies are a global experience, and thanks to the diaspora, people who love Nollywood are all over the globe.
This is just a market that no one has really tapped with a global reach. Nigerians want to watch movies and they want to make movies. Now they have a chance to make them with producers and audiences afforded the highest levels of talent.
Still, it will be interesting to see if this changes Nollywood and the stories they tell.
Thompson spoke to CNN about those worries, saying "We need to be a bit careful to make sure we don't lose creative control of our stories. With more multinationals looking into Africa for partnerships, we don't want to find ourselves stuck with them dictating what we start to produce," he said. "At the same time, we can still be glad that they are paying attention as that means growth for our film industry," he added.
Only time will tell where this deal goes, but it's huge news right now.
Let us know what you think in the comments.
We would love to hear from our readers working in Nollywood!