I didn’t see Seven and a Half Dates when it was released in cinemas last week Friday, partly because of my experience with a recent Nollywood film at my local theatre. Disappointingly, the movie had a glitch in its audio output, rendering it unwatchable and forcing a cancellation of subsequent showings for that day.
Seven and Half Dates, produced by Samuel Olatunji and with Biodun Stephens as director, didn’t have a massive media campaign. Although it parades a prominent principal cast from Jim Iyke and Mercy Johnson to Toyin Abraham, the movie joins the flux of cinema-ready movies shaping today’s movie culture.
Samuel Olatunji announced via his Instagram that Seven and a Half Dates “rose to the top of the box office among Nollywood and Hollywood films, overall second to Mission Impossible. Nigerians love quality movie.” This is funny, because “Nollywood” and “quality” shouldn’t be in the same sentence but that’s a talking point for another day.
Olatunji’s proclamation on Seven and Half Dates, in respect to its opening weekend and box office recoup, is the same disingenuous rhetoric pulled from the Nollywood movie hype playbook. Unchecked, normalised, and operatically familiar, it feeds into its own hysteria, a sign that the movie is “doing well” in the context of early box office numbers.
We have seen this hype syndrome over and over, fabricated figures running into millions and the ensuing chaos, more hype, wash and repeat. The opacity of Nollywood box office information hinges on consumer gullibility, and the absence of fact-checking institutions.
Mo Abudu, Toyin Abraham, AY Makun, Omoni Oboli and many other practitioners have all benefited from the box office hype complex, in alliance with ungodly cinema gatekeeping. Towards the end of July, Rotten Tomatoes, an arbiter of movie reported that Mission: Impossible – Fallout grossed $61.5M in its opening weekend, the highest record in the Mission Impossible franchise.
Ruthlessly dependable, and trustworthy, Rotten Tomatoes isn’t a proprietor of fake news. The institution readily churns out movie news, reviews and box office data published on its website and room for fabrications are vanishingly thin. Aside from the great morass of Nollywood movies with the same stories, and offloaded onto the waiting, popcorn buttered-hands of cinemas, the industry’s box office reputation doesn’t inspire confidence. These days, nothing in Nollywood does.