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Audiences not interested in Czech films

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Most Czech movies are attracting only a thousand moviegoers each. Only three Czech films achieved significant success in the first half of this year – Líbáš jako Bůh, Peklo s princeznou, and Sněženky a machři po 25 letech. Cinema admissions for each of the remaining 26 titles released this year combined reached a total of only tens of thousands.

Even summer films like T. M. A., Operace Dunaj and Klíček have had little effect on the trend. “The increased number of titles released this year mean that Czech film is no longer anything special for moviegoers. It is true that some Czech films are not very audience-friendly,” said Aleš Danielis, the head of film distribution at Bontonfilm.

Cinema operators agree. “The mentality of Czech audiences has changed. The position of Czech films is now the same as that of American ones. Filmmakers have spoiled it themselves by what they are producing,” said Oldřich Kubišta from Cinema City.

However, the indicator that Czech cinematography is proud of – market share – still hovers around 30%. “Any figure around and above 30% is a small miracle,” said Danielis.

But that market share is made up of many more Czech releases than in previous years. Until 2007, about 20 new Czech films were released each year. Last year there were 38. The situation is similar this year. Film production is up thanks to increased subsidies for filmmakers — two injections of CZK 100 million each under the previous government — and revenues from advertising sold on public broadcaster Czech Television.

According to data from the Czech Union of Film Distributors, 852,000 cinema-goers saw Líbáš jako Bůh in the first six months of 2009, 247,000 went to see Peklo s princeznou and 243,000 people saw Sněženky a machři po 25 letech (which premiered in December 2008). These three films accounted for 79.3% of all admissions to Czech films in the period. On the other hand, many films had disappointing results, including Jménem krále (35,000 admissions), El Paso (10,000), Ocas ještěrky, Proměny (9,000), and Případ nevěrné Kláry (36,000).

The decreasing admissions is bad news for Czech producers because ticket sales is an important source of financing for production. But even the biggest box-office hits have trouble covering their costs. As director Jan Svěrák said, his very successful film Vratné lahve only broke even after it sold CZK 100 million in ticket, which is roughly 1 million admissions. Of each ticket sold, 50-60% of revenue goes to the cinema owner, 10%-15% to the distributor, and roughly 30% to the producer.

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