Portugal’s Film Biz Hits A Theatrical Low Point

The past year has been one of the worst in history for theatrical releases in Portugal.

Attendance keeps falling (down from 30 million tix in 1984 to about 10 million in 1990). The number of hardtops is down to only about 60 in the whole country.

Portuguese feature films for the most part continue to fail to attract local audiences. Of the seven pics produced last year, only four were released. By far the most successful was Manoel de Oliveira’s “Non Or The Vain Glory Of Commanding,” which drew over 60,000 spectators, grossing some $126,000.

The Portuguese-French-Spanish co-prod reportedly cost $4.9 million to make, compared to an average $500,000 for most Portuguese pics.

Other local items released are “Os Cornos De Cronos” (Broken Heart), a tongue in cheek drama; “De Luxe Murder,” a comic thriller; and family drama “Filha de Mae” (Mother’s Daughter).

Income for producers here comes mostly from State subsidies and from the occasional offshore arthouse sales. Over the past 15 years, only three local pics were hits at the b.o., but even these trailed behind average Yank product.

Prizes don’t help

Winning prizes at international film festivals doesn’t seem to help local pics either. Thus Joao Cesar Monteiro’s “Memories From The Yellow House” which won the top prize at Venice last year drew only 25,000 viewers here.

Some glimmer of hope has recently been opened by the European Media program, funded by the ECC. But thus far only two Portuguese projects have been selected for financing help: Paulo Rocha’s “The Wreck Of The Sepulveda” and Joaquim Leitao’s “Come Back.”

Last December, during a meeting of the Assn. of Feature Film Producers, it was urged that the government provide subsidies to help national production. Pop music journalist Manuel Falcao was then chosen to run the Portuguese Film Institute, a controversial move that caused considerable infighting.

So far, no further developments, other than the granting of subsidy coin to the popular Oporto sci-film festival (Fantasporto) and new legislation for those applying for the maximum new film subsidy of $550,000.

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