Amazon’s Prime Video premiered, Gangs of Lagos its first African original title, filmed in Lagos, Nigeria.
Crime thriller Gangs of Lagos tells the story of a group of childhood friends trying to navigate life in a bustling, overcrowded neighborhood, Prime said in a statement.
Amazon’s streaming division has been pushing to boost its subscriber base on the continent, which has the world’s youngest and fastest-growing population. The film industry in Nigeria, where Amazon competes with rivals including Netflix Inc., Disney+, Showmax and local video-on-demand platforms, produces more movies than Hollywood.
Screenings of Gangs of Lagos will be held later this month in London and New York. It was directed and produced by Nigerian filmmaker Jade Osiberu, whose Greoh Studios has an exclusive deal with Prime.
Amazon Prime began operating in Africa in 2016 and introduced a local version of its service to Nigeria in 2021. It currently has about 143 licensed acquisitions, which include non-exclusive content, a company spokesperson said.
It signed licensing deals with local producers Inkblot and Anthill Studios last year. Inkblot produced Netflix’s first Nigerian young adult show, Far From Home.
Amazon is planning to launch its first South African original, an unscripted comedy series hosted by Trevor Noah called Last One Laughing, in 2024. A Nigerian version of the show is planned for later this year.
The expansion of the Nigerian studio relies on local talent, mirroring their model in at least twenty other countries, according to Ned Mitchell, head of Prime’s Africa and Middle East Originals.
“It’s more comfortable for creators to be able to speak with someone who understands their story and their lived experience and who can champion their point of view,” Mitchell said in an interview. “There are a number of originals in the pipeline.”
The film’s reception will serve as the latest litmus test for the international appeal of the world’s second-biggest film industry, known as Nollywood. Nigeria produced 2,500 films in 2021, according to UNESCO, far exceeding Hollywood’s output. However, the industry’s productivity has not always been matched by quality.
While Amazon declined to provide exact budget figures for Gangs of Lagos, their plan is to raise Nollywood production to global standards, Mitchell said.
“What we’re doing is spending a significant amount of time and resources on development and prep and all these things that typically creators aren’t able to do because of budgets and timelines that they face,” he added. “We focus on quality over quantity.”