Belgian film production is showing signs of modest growth after a period of stagnation.
In 1988,15 features were completed, compared with 12 in 1987 and an average of fewer than 10 a year in the early ’80s.
Producers, of course, still complain about limited subsidies, the public’s apathy toward domestic productions, the smallness of the domestic market and the difficulties of finding a place for Belgian productions in the international market, but film production is still growing rather than declining.
Stijn Coninx’s “Koko Flanel” was the domestic hit of 1989. It broke records in Brussels, garnering 106,243 admissions and receipts of 18.392 million francs (approximately $575,000) in its first 18 weeks.
The film was also a hit in the Netherlands, where its star Urbanus is hugely popular with the Dutch-speaking public. Urbanus was also the star of 1987’s “Hector,” a previous boxoffice record holder with receipts of 8.114 million francs.
The Oscar-nominated “Wait Until Spring, Bandini,” directed by Dominique Deruddere in 1989 and produced by Erwin Provoost, was less successful. It earned 5.973 million francs during its 16-week run in Brussels. Another ’89 release, “Australia,” by Jean-Jacques Andrien with Fanny Ardant and Jeremy Irons, did similar business, scoring 4.352 million francs in the Belgian capital.
The other recent Belgian boxoffice success was Gerard Corbiau’s “Le Maitre de musique” in 1988. Starring baritone Jose Van Dam, it drew a total of $2 million in receipts. In Brussels, it counted 117,415 admissions after 50 weeks and scored receipts of 20.802 million francs.
Offshore coin the rule
The pic is one of the few examples of feature films produced solely with Belgian money. In 1988, feature films financed exclusively with Belgian money accounted for only 161.755 million francs (approximately $5.1 million) in overall production costs. Co-productions, mainly with France, the Netherlands and Canada, which only partly involved Belgian funds, totaled 612.706 million francs. Thus, producing a film in Belgium, especially a feature film, usually means finding money in other markets.
Production of shorts is also rising. In 1988, there were 85 shorts made, compared with only 41 in 1987. The difference is largely due to animation (30 productions in 1988, twice as many as in 1987).
Documentaries, on the other hand, are in decline. There were 30 documentaries produced in 1988, compared with approximately 70 each year in the ’70s.
The Belgian production market is also fragmented. In mid ’89, there were 180 officially registered production companies. Half of the 819 people working for them were doing so in companies with fewer than 10 employees