Czech Film Industry Rebounds Cautiously
The Czech film industry, having emerged from 2006 with record audience share figures only to find it still faces perilous obstacles.
Following a dismal 2005, when the number of cinema admissions for new Czech productions sank to 2.4 million from 2004's 2.9 million, last year saw a high of 3.2 million admissions, the highest since 1993's 4.3 million. The success evidenced by the figures-released by the Czech Film Center, a film promotion agency backed by the professional film industry organization Audiovisual Producers' Association (APA) and the statement that, of all European Union citizens, the Czechs were second only to the French in terms of attending cinema showings stemming from their local film industry. It also led to Czech film production coffers gaining a record Kč 300.3 million (€ 10.7 million), with the previous highest being 2004's Kč 259.6 million.
However, Radomír Dočekal, managing director of the APA, said film producers could never survive by only depending on box office takings. Noting that last year almost Kč 700 million went into domestic film production, compared to 2005's Kč 490 million, Dočekal said local producers' future success amid strong European rivalry depended on whether stronger state financial incentives are forthcoming. "If a producer goes to Hungary or the U.K. and invests one dollar, he gets back 20 percent; if he goes to Germany, he might even receive 25 percent back; if he comes to the Czech Republic, he receives nothing," Dočekal said. The amount of money spent last year by foreign filmmakers in the Czech Republic was just Kč 1.3 billion, down from 2003's Kč 5 billion.
Last year's box office success was partly a result of the Czech film industry betting on higher-budget productions. Its number of released new feature films was 23, the same as in the previous two years. The number of new cinema releases overall (including non-Czech productions) was 234 last year, beating 2005's 193. Admissions for the overall category were also up, to 10.4 million from 9.5 million.
The Ministry of Culture is currently analyzing suggestions to amend the cinematography laws made by a working group of cinema specialists including film directors, producers, distributors, theater managers, script writers and documentary and animated filmmakers. Dočekal said the main suggestions include the creation of an institution that would work for the profitability of the cinematographic industry; a framework for funding cinema projects and criteria for financing; and the introduction of fiscal incentives similar to those in many other European countries.
"It's not only about money; it's about understanding the immense potential of this industry and making it work at full speed," said Jana Černíková, managing director of the Czech Film Center. More funds might enable Czech producers to take part in more international co-productions. "At the moment, it's impossible for a local producer to cooperate with a European colleague at the same level; the maximum he can do is participate in a low-budget co-production," she said.
Černíková is also pushing for better supported promotion of contemporary Czech cinema by the state. "Everyone who thinks about Czech cinematography has in mind films made during the 1960s or international films shot here," she said.
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