With the recession deepening across the globe Europe is struggling to find cash for entertainment. Squeezing budgets for film production has proved to be a 'mission impossible' for many. But are the highest grossing films only made in Hollywood?
“It was a poor year for local productions in Germany,” acquisitions and productions expert from Germany, Julius Windhorst, told RT during the International Film Market in Paris.
“I wouldn't say the German film industry is in good shape,” he added.
According to Windhorst, last year was “really bad” for German productions which claimed only about 16-17 percent market share, instead of 20-25% or higher.
The French comedy The Intouchables became the highest-grossing non-English language movie, selling nearly 9 million tickets.
The top grossing hit proved to be Skyfall, which earned $81 million.
The fourth installment of the Ice Age series Ice Age: Continental Drift, produced by Blue Sky Studios and distributed by 20th Century Fox, raked in nearly $64 million.
Madagascar3: Europe's Most Wanted fetched nearly $40 million.
“Germans love to go to the movies. General admission last year was really good; it was an all time record. The thing is, it was mostly boosted by big American blockbusters, and not by German productions,” Windhorst noted.
Although it's become a common trend to complain about Hollywood films dominating the global market, the German distributor disagrees.
“We're living in a free market world. Films have different audiences, so there's an audience for American productions. It's always the question of competition. I don't see any problem with American productions getting there first. American films are not to blame when local [German] productions fail to reach an audience,” he explained.
According to one of the leading European film gurus, Joel Chapron, “France has never viewed Hollywood as its biggest rival.”
“We never even thought of competing with Hollywood, we are totally uncompetitive in this regard. We think that our local audiences should have an opportunity to watch whichever films they want. It's up to them to choose between home-made productions and foreign films.”
Although last year France saw annual admissions going down nearly 6 percent, to 204 million, the country didn't loose its reputation as a film production powerhouse.
“We are the world's second country in terms of film export; number one exporter is America. Although there are other countries in the world which produce more films than we do, such as China, India or Egypt, in reality not many people are watching those films outside of their own countries. Meanwhile, we have almost the same number of viewers inside France as in the rest of the world,” Chapron pointed out.
Russia is the fifth largest market for Hollywood movies, with major US producers coming to Moscow to explore opportunities.
According to one Russian producer Aleksandr Rodnyansky, who recently set up a $120 million investment fund to produce movies for the American market, it’s currently worth $1.1 billion, which makes it the largest market behind Japan, UK, Germany and France.
With the growing number of screens, Russia could achieve $2 billion in the foreseeable future, which would make the Russian film industry one of the worlds biggest.
In 2012 Ice Age: Continental Drift raked in over $50 million in Russia, while Madagascar 3 fetched nearly $50 million.
Last year Russian box office hit the benchmark of $1.3 billion, but the share of local films dropped. The top-grossing Russian film, Ivan Tsarevich and the Gray Wolf managed to earn $20 million.
Although Russia is known worldwide for its deeply rooted film tradition, with Eisenstein and Tarkovsky listed among the greatest film directors of the 20th Century, Russian films don't “travel” well, and rarely prove to be competitive when released outside of their native country.
“To release commercially profitable films – other than those made in Hollywood – costs a lot of money and takes a lot of risk. Each country and each cinema has a certain image in the world. Since 1970, Russia has a reputation for creating the so called auteur's, arthouse films, so it's very hard to think out of the box and create something of a different kind. It also costs a lot of money,” Chapron said.
It appears that Africa could ”draw lessons from Russia's experience with building a burgeoning film business, growing from a mid-90s low in terms of number of modern screens to today's billion dollar box office,” Kenyan film producer Dayo Ogunyemi told RT.
“I suppose it's much more prosaic talking about film distribution rather than film production, but without the business it is hard to sustain the art,” he added.
While no country has been spared of the economic crisis, Spain happened to be among the ones who suffered the most.
According to Variety, local titles claimed a 17,9% market share, with a box office of over $140 million.
Spanish producer and distributor, Adolfo Blanco, says the local “Spanish audio visual industry has been very deeply affected by the Eurozone crisis.”
“Only if you are able to produce a big hit, you get the money and can survive,” he explained.
However, according to Blanco, who mentions that film pirates are currently very active in Spain, the local “film industry is not dead, it's simply sick.”
“Small films are very hard to produce, to find financing. One has to be extremely cautious in managing the business,” he added.
“Making the right decisions is a challenge. In this business what really matters is the content, so if you have the right film, you get the money,” the Spanish producer wrapped up.
Valeria Paikova, RT
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