Please tell us something about your formative years.
In my formative years, I was fortunate to grow up in a close-knit family of six, where I held the position of the firstborn. My father, a dedicated journalist and pastor, instilled a sense of discipline and purpose in our household. Although my mother initially studied Agric Economics, she chose to be a stay-at-home mom during the mid-nineties.
Our upbringing was deeply rooted in the values of the Deeper Life Christian Ministry, a conservative Pentecostal denomination in Nigeria. This environment, while more stringent in its approach, shielded us from what was deemed worldly or ungodly. Our family journey led us from Mafoluku to Ajao Estate on the mainland, shaping my perspective and fostering a strong foundation in traditional values. My early exposure to the creative space came through active participation in the Deeper Life Children Choir and later the Deeper Life Youth Choir. These experiences ignited my flair for creativity and storytelling, setting the stage for my later involvement in the entertainment industry. The vibrant landscapes of Nigeria, coupled with the influences of a conservative yet nurturing family and church community, laid the groundwork for my passion for storytelling and entertainment. It was during these formative years that I began to navigate the intricate tapestry of my homeland, discovering the unique stories that would later inspire my journey in the world of entertainment. This period of my life not only shaped my cultural identity but also fueled my desire to contribute meaningfully to the creative landscape. As I embarked on my academic journey abroad in 2001, these early experiences became the cornerstone upon which I built my career in the dynamic realm of storytelling and entertainment.
Which schools did you attend? And what did you study at University?
My early education began at Iyaniwura Nursery and Primary School in Ilupeju, followed by Home Science Association Secondary School in Alakuko, Lagos. I then joined the pioneering class at Babcock University, Ilishan Remo, Ogun State, majoring in Economics.
Subsequently, I pursued higher education at Middlesex University in the United Kingdom, completing an undergraduate degree in Money, Banking, and Finance. I furthered my studies with an MSc in International Finance. Alongside my academic pursuits, I engaged in professional lessons toward becoming a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), reaching Level 1.
These educational experiences collectively shape my entrepreneurial mindset, merging financial expertise with a nuanced understanding of various industries, notably influencing my role in the entertainment sector.
How did you get into the movie industry?
I would describe my entry into the movie industry as serendipitous, earning me the title of an accidental careerist. This term encapsulates finding oneself in a sector not originally planned but becoming deeply involved over time. In October 2002, an unexpected opportunity presented itself when my Aunty, employed at the Job Center in London, shared a job vacancy for a Cast Member (akin to a Customer Service role) at the nearby UCI Surrey Quays cinema, now known as Odeon Cinema, Surrey Quays. This role became the starting point of my cinematic journey, spanning six years at that cinema and a total of eleven years with the Odeon Cinema Company. Notably, my co-founder, business partner, and brother, Kene Okwuosa, played a pivotal role in helping rectify a challenging work interview process during this period.
Our collaboration evolved into a strong professional and personal bond, culminating in the founding of The Filmhouse Group. Interestingly, we are now connected not just through business but also as family, being married to blood sisters, and our children sharing the bond of being first cousins.
The movie and music industries are recognized internationally as arguably Nigeria’s flagship industries, with both attracting worldwide acclaim to our nation. Would you agree with this? And if yes, what’s making them flourish even in the midst of Nigeria’s protracted economic downturn?
Embracing authenticity is at the core of our mission, as we proudly celebrate our heritage through the rich tapestry of local languages, slangs, and cultural traditions, from Orisha, Afamefuna, KOB, Battle On Buka Street, Ijakumo, King of Thieves, Omo Ghetto, Living in Bondage, Kesari, to mention a few. This commitment not only reflects our deep-rooted connection to our origins but also resonates strongly with our diverse audience. In our continuous efforts to connect with both local and international consumers, we embark on a journey of content creation that transcends borders. By crafting compelling narratives and experiences tailored to our market and other global territories, we aim to bridge cultural gaps and foster a shared appreciation for storytelling. The digital era presents boundless opportunities, and we seize them by digitizing our content to enhance awareness. This strategic approach ensures that our narratives, steeped in authenticity, reach and resonate with audiences both locally and internationally. By doing so, we not only contribute to cultural preservation but also foster a global dialogue that transcends
What was FilmOne’s breakthrough movie? And what do think made it such a success?
FilmOne achieved a significant breakthrough through strategic initiative and partnership, most notably the global release of “The Wedding Party 2,” which not only marked our entry into Top box office chart but also served as a game-changer in 2016.
The success of “The Wedding Party” can be attributed to the collaborative efforts of four production houses, each leveraging their strengths in marketing and positioning the film. Furthermore, the project’s
spectacular outcome was made possible by dedicated funding, contributing to its overall success and setting the stage for more impactful international collaborations.
Nigeria is blessed with an abundance of talent but it has always been the view of our publication that Nigeria’s educational system remains blind to creative talent and does little to nurture it. Do you agree?
If yes, what can be done to change this?
I largely agree with this although I also notice that our government are quick to celebrate or associate with the wins of our creatives/creators without any meaningful strategy on how to replicate and turbo charge these achievements. Historically and traditionally there has been a lack of understanding of the business of creativity and entertainment as well as a mindset of seeing creativity for unambitious or lazy people who haven’t been able to demonstrate the financial value of their talent but this as changed in the last decade and a half with the success Afrobeats has recorded locally and internationally. I think there needs to be deliberate measures by the government in particular to understand the business side to all creative endeavor and create enabling environments for them to thrive. There are case studies that abound that can be studied. Those in the private sector like us, need to do more to propagate and spread the word about business, how it works, it’s wins, it’s challenges, opportunities and threats and what support is required to unearth the opportunities for growth.
It is also widely agreed that the Nigerian school curriculum needs to focus more on entrepreneurship. To give the Federal Government credit, moves are currently being made to rectify that but truth is, governments cannot do it alone. Being a highly successful entrepreneur yourself who attended one of the world’s leading and most prestigious business schools, the INSEAD, what is Film One doing to nurture more entrepreneurs?
FilmOne is not only contributing to the empowerment of the film entertainment sector but is also actively participating in job creation.
According to KPMG, Nollywood employs over 130,000 people directly, ranging from production assistants to concession stand workers. This is a significant workforce drawing income directly from the industry. When considering entrepreneurs from vendors, suppliers, and other support industries, the number extends well beyond a million people who expect regular income from the sector.
Moreover, the recent opening of a Federal Government portal for individuals in this space seeking training garnered immense interest, with over 3 million and 18,000 people signing up. These figures underscore the enormous potential that young creatives/entrepreneurs bring to the table. FilmOne is at the forefront of these empowerment initiatives, recognizing the substantial impact on job creation and economic growth.
Acting is serious business in the developed world, which is why there are several renowned acting schools in those societies. There’s the famous Juilliard Acting School in New York, Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in Los Angeles and the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. Do you see an opportunity for acting schools to emerge here in Nigeria too? Can it be a sustainable or even a thriving business in this society?
I think there is solid business for those that go into Educating and Training Creatives just because of the sheer percentage of our young population who are interested in various creative endeavor, not least film.
There are acting schools in Nigeria that have proven to be not only sustainable but also transformative. Over time, they have played a pivotal role in nurturing the creative landscape, giving rise to new talents, directors, producers, and crew members. This, in turn, has resulted in increased job opportunities, boosted GDP revenue, and made a substantial contribution to the thriving business of filmmaking. Notable examples of such film schools in Nigeria include Ebony Life Academy, Royal Art Academy, KAP Film School, Delyork Film School, and many others.
Nigeria is fast changing but in many ways, it is still quite a conventional society where many parents would rather have their child pursue the more conventional careers. What was the initial reaction of your parents when you decided to venture into the movie industry?
My decision to enter the movie industry initially left my father perplexed. Having made significant sacrifices to fund my education in the U.K., he struggled to comprehend why I chose a path that seemed to diverge from conventional career expectations. Working at a cinema, selling tickets and concessions, appeared to him as an underutilization of my academic background. He expressed his dissatisfaction, perceiving it as a “waste” of my life. However, over the years, as The Filmhouse Group achieved modest success, he has come around and now appreciates the impact and progress in the industry.
Why did you return to Nigeria as you appear to have been doing quite well in the United Kingdom?
Returning to Nigeria was a conscious choice driven by a burning desire to replicate the successes observed while working at Odeon in the United Kingdom. The positive reactions of Nigerians in London attending our film premieres between 2006 and 2012 played a pivotal role in reinforcing the belief that successful screenings in the diaspora could be replicated in the untapped market back home. This decision wasn’t solely driven by passion but also by a deep-seated commitment to contribute to the burgeoning entertainment landscape in Nigeria.
The opportunity to make a significant impact and elevate the industry fueled this choice.
Filmmakers are extremely influential people in any society. Would you agree?
Certainly, filmmakers wield immense influence as architects of societal narratives, shaping perspectives and contributing profoundly to cultural discourse. At FilmOne, we recognize and embrace this responsibility. Our commitment extends beyond entertainment; it transforms into a powerful conduit for impactful storytelling that resonates with diverse audiences. We aim to be a positive force, consciously ensuring that our narratives contribute positively to societal discourse and cultural representation. Through cinema, we strive to create a shared cultural experience that resonates on a profound level, contributing meaningfully to the collective narrative of our society.
Is FilmOne giving back to the educational sector in anyway? If yes, how?
Absolutely, there is a clear need for improvement in our educational system, particularly in recognizing and nurturing creative talent. The global success of our movie and music stars has significantly enhanced Nigeria’s positive image on the international stage. I strongly advocate for increased government support and tax refunds for the industry to further inspire and empower the next generation of creative minds.
This positive momentum is already reshaping societal attitudes, with parents increasingly supporting their children’s choice to pursue careers in the creative sector. At FilmOne, we actively champion and support young talent, as evidenced by our productions where opportunities for emerging creatives are consistently provided. Creating an environment where creative potential is recognized, celebrated, and supported is crucial.
Our commitment at FilmOne extends beyond our productions. We also actively collaborate with educational institutions and industry stakeholders to create internship programs that identify, nurture, and guide young talents.
We have been able to retain multiple talents in our organization through these programs. Through bridging the gap between education and the creative industry, we aim to contribute to a more supportive and conducive environment for the flourishing of creative talent in Nigeria. These initiatives and many more in the works reflect our aspiration to be a catalyst for positive change in how our society perceives and nurtures creative potential.
Faced with often unrelenting hardship, many Nigerians welcome the opportunity to visit the cinema so to take their minds off the challenges of daily living, even if it’s just for a couple of hours. Nearly all medical practitioners and Psychologists will agree that this is a healthy habit as the medicinal value of laughter cannot be denied. But in addition to this, to what extent do you consider it a good opportunity to convey value driven messages that will educate and add value?
Cinema, beyond its entertainment value, is a powerful conduit for conveying messages that resonate. FilmOne recognizes this potential, balancing commercial success with a commitment to inspire and educate. In the days of old, we called them folklores; the oldest persons in the village would sit the children down, tell them a story that always had a lesson. Similarly, in today’s cinema experience, we leverage this age-old concept to impart value-driven messages. This tradition of storytelling remains one of the most effective ways to educate, seamlessly blending entertainment with essential life lessons.
What is FilmOne’s next big movie project? I hope you don’t mind me asking?
FilmOne has exciting projects in the pipeline, collaborating with trusted partners such as Toyin Abraham, Odunlade Adekola, and Funke Akindele. Additionally, there are plans for a noteworthy Hollywood/Nollywood project, and we look forward to sharing more details soon
FilmOne is widely regarded to be the number one movie production company in Nigeria and amongst the leading companies in Africa. What is it that sets you apart from the rest?
FilmOne’s success is attributed to innovation, strategic partnerships, and a commitment to excellence, solidifying our position as a trailblazer in the African film industry. What sets us apart is our sheer resilience and dedication to industry growth. When we entered the business, there were only a handful of cinemas, and it was a struggle to engage the audience with our local content. Through collaboration with our partners, we produced and distributed one of Nollywood’s biggest films, Wedding Party 1 & 2. We continue to foster a spirit of collaboration, co-producing some of the industry’s biggest blockbusters that contribute immensely to overall growth of not just the company but the entertainment industry in Nigeria.
Other examples of successful partnerships/collaborations are the Merry Men franchise, The Sugar Rush franchise, The Set Up franchise and standalone films such as Prophetess 2 and the highest grossing Nollywood film of all time Battle on Buka Street co-produced and starring the Queen of African Box Office, Funke Akindele.
Your profile reveals that you are a very well educated individual. To what extent would you say your education made you the success you are today?
Education has been a guiding force throughout my journey, providing critical thinking tools and empowering me to navigate the intricate intersections of the entertainment and business sectors. In its diverse forms — whether gained within the traditional four walls of a university, through specialized training, apprenticeships, or other unconventional avenues — education plays a vital role in shaping one’s ability to adapt and succeed in dynamic industries.
Embracing various paths of learning opens doors to unique insights and skillsets, contributing to a holistic understanding of the ever-evolving professional landscape. As the saying goes, ‘You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.’
Embrace diverse avenues of education, uncovering keys to unlocking your fullest potential. Learning never stops; it’s a timeless pursuit that enriches our lives and elevates our aspirations. Seize every opportunity to expand your knowledge, carving the path to a brighter, more empowered future.
______________________________ Moses Babatope M.Sc, BA Hons. is the Co-founder, Deputy Managing Director Filmhouse Group (Owners of Filmhouse Cinemas and FilmOne Entertainment) and Managing Director of FilmOne Entertainment Moses Babatope has over 20 years of experience in film exhibition, production, distribution, marketing and Cinema operations management, gained from several markets, including the United Kingdom and Nigeria. As Managing Director of FilmOne, Moses has been the mastermind behind the global distribution of blockbuster films such as Battle on Buka Street, Born Again Stripper (Ijakumo), Omo Ghetto: The Saga, The Wedding Party films, A Trip to Jamaica, King of Thieves, King of Boys, The Merry Men Films, and Chief Daddy, to mention a few. He has also spearheaded international distribution partnerships with Hollywood studios such as Walt Disney, Warner Brothers, Sony Pictures and International streaming platforms such as Netflix, Amazon and Showmaxx. Moses is an Executive Producer of Nollywood's highest-grossing film of all time Battle on Buka Street, as well as other box office hits like Born Again Stripper, Passport, The Order of Things, Sugar Rush, The Wedding Party 1 & 2, The Set Up 1 & 2, Merry Men 1& 2, The Ghost and The Tout Too and another twenty plus films. He is also a co-founder of Filmhouse Cinemas, Nigeria’s biggest cinema chain and the region’s sole partner to IMAX, Mediamation (MX4D) and DBOX. Moses holds a Bachelor’s degree in Money banking & Finance and a Master’s degree in International Finance, both from Middlesex University, London. He was endorsed as an Endeavor Entrepreneur in May 2019 and has been a panelist and speaker at several international film conferences. Moses was a Juror of the 2020/21 Nigeria Oscars Selection Committee and became an elected member of the 49th International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (organizers of the International Emmy Awards) in 2021. In June 2022, he was appointed by the academy a Juror of the 50th International Emmy Awards. Moses is the Publisher and Editor In Chief of the annual Nigerian Box Office Year Book, a cinema industry publication that is well-read and in its 4th edition. Filmhouse is the largest cinema chain in West Africa, and FilmOne is the fastest-growing studio-styled organization and leading film distributor in West Africa, responsible for the distribution and/or production of cinema hits such as Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, The Woman King, Black Adam, Doctor Strange: in the multiverse of madness, Aquaman, Angel Has Fallen, Kingsman, Logan, Hitman’s Bodyguard, Tomb Raider, Rampage, Chief Daddy, King of Boys, Merry Men:The Real Yoruba Demons, Merry Men 2, Deadpool 2, Living In Bondage: Breaking Free, King of Thieves, Sugar Rush, The Wedding Party, and its sequel The Wedding Party 2, and one of Nollywood’s highest-grossing films of all time, Omo Ghetto:The Saga, to mention a few. As Managing Director of FilmOne, Moses manages a Twenty-man team who together oversee the theatrical distribution interests of Hollywood studios – Walt Disney, Warner Bros, Lionsgate and STX, in Anglophone west Africa. Since 2019, Moses has overseen the aggregation arrangement that delivered the highest batch of African Content to the world’s largest internet TV platform, NETFLIX. FilmOne is the largest supplier of Nollywood content to NETFLIX and Amazon. In 2020, Moses spearheaded FilmOne’s efforts in the creation and development of premium episodic TV content originated from Nigeria. A number of these projects are currently being reviewed by major global broadcasters to produce or license. FilmOne and Filmhouse have a combined workforce of just over 500 Employees. Moses is also a Co-founder of Talking Drum Entertainment, a UK-based company specializing in the distribution of Black film and TV content, whose credits include the successful international theatrical releases of award-winning Nigerian films, such as The Mirror Boy, Anchor Baby, Last Flight to Abuja, Tango with Me, Flower Girl, When Love Happens and most recently A Trip to Jamaica, King of Boys and The Wedding Party 2, which became the highest grossing Nollywood film in UK cinemas, making its entry on the UK top 10 box office chart on boxing day, in 2017. Moses was a consultant to Genesis Deluxe Cinemas (2008 – 2011) and rose to the position of Special Projects Manager at Odeon/AMC Cinemas (the largest cinema chain in the world) UK, (2002 – 2013), pioneering a review in film booking policy to accommodate the programming of Nollywood films across select Odeon Cinemas in the UK. • 2022, Appointed Juror of the 50th International Emmy Awards • 2022, Meta Cinema Awards-Highest grossing cinema distributor in Africa. • 2022, Meta Cinema Awards-Highest grossing cinema Exhibitor in Africa. • 2021, Elected member of the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (International Emmy Awards). • 2020/21, Juror, Nigeria Oscar Selection Committee • American Film Market (AFM) Interview – October, 2020 • BBC interview - September 2020 • Nigerian-South Africa Chamber of Commerce – September, 2020 • Rest of the world Magazine interview – September, 2020 • 2020, Panelist, Adapting to Thrive, Gabfest 2020 - Nigeria • 2020, Panelist, Africa Hub, European Film Market – Berlinale, Germany • 2019, Moderator/Panelist, Nigerian International Film Summit - Los Angeles, California United States • 2019, Panelist, Emerging Cinema Market Conference, Istanbul, Turkey • 2019, Panelist, Choisel Africa Business Forum, Nice, France • 2019, Speaker, Nigerian International Film Summit – Lagos, Nigeria • 2019, Panelist, Durban Film Market and Film Festival. • 2019, Panelist, Abidjan Film Summit. • 2018, Moderator, Nigerian International Film Summit – Los Angeles, California, United States. • 2018, Moderator, Nigerian International Film Summit – Lagos, Nigeria. • 2018, Juror, African Magic Viewer’s Choice Awards, Lagos, Nigeria. Moses and his wife Margaret, have two sons, Joshua and Josiah. He loves cooking and watching football. He managed a company football team in London, winning the annual Odeon Football Tournament, twice.