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Filming Venice in Prague? You’ll pay more.

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It’s a proposal that has similar logic as if a hotel owner reacted to a cheaper and more more high-end rival by raising his prices and offering discounts to guests who promise to sing praises of his hotel wherever they go.

Prague 1 City Hall is seeking bigger income from film crews shooting films and commercials in Prague’s centre. A new regulation now being prepared would enable city councillors to charge more money for filming in some locations in future. According to a new price list, filmmakers would contribute more money to a so-called security fund compensating for the restriction of free movement of citizens. And on top of that, the city hall would charge higher rates for those who would use Prague exteriors for a film meant to take place in a different location. They should just shoot films about Venice in Italy, Mayor Petr Hejma told filmmakers indirectly. If you don’t promote Prague, you’ll pay more, he said. In TV Nova’s broadcast last week, he even threatened indirectly: “Of course, if it’s proven that Prague was not mentioned, filming here might not even be permitted.”

The representatives of film producers did not hide their disappointment. Prague’s biggest asset – the wide variety of architectonic styles, which helped filmmakers produce a plausible illusion of Vienna or, let’s say, Istanbul in the past, should now be much less advantageous for foreign film crews due to higher prices.

Companies providing services to foreign film producers fear quite reasonably that the demand for shooting films in Prague will fall further. Already now big film productions have started looking for other options besides Prague. Even the renowned beauty of the Czech capital will not soften Hollywood filmmakers. In the past years, stars like Tom Cruise, Vin Diesel, Wesley Snipes and Daniel Craig used to run around in the streets and on the roofs of Prague. The past tense is not misplaced. Lured by investment incentives in the neighbouring countries, film crews are leaving in droves.

City councillors tried to tone down their words at a news conference after the Thursday meeting of the city hall and the representatives of filmmakers. But people who don’t have accurate statistics at their disposal must have found media reports about the meeting confusing. Did the number of films and commercials shot in Prague’s centre increase last year, as Prague 1 claims, or did it decrease considerably, as the APA says? Based on the proposed price list, is Prague going to be more expensive than London and Paris for film makers, as the producers say, or not yet, as the town is trying to convince them?

The local government can introduce the new regulation regardless of film producers’ opinions. But there is a real threat that if it does, there will be a further decrease in demand, and it will not be just film professionals but also the city hall that will lose out as a result.

Translated with permission by the Prague Daily Monitor.

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