Eastern, central Euro filmmaking on the rise

BRUSSELS — New figures from the EU on the progress of the film biz in central and eastern Europe in 2002 suggest modest progress for moviemaking in the region, with the number of productions rising. The research from Brussels also suggests that productions could do worse than head to Hungary, where levels of public funding for film and TV are higher than anywhere else in the area.

In cinemas, meanwhile, market share for national films was down in 2002 compared to the previous year.

The stats, from the European Audiovisual Observatory, reveal that around 92 full-length features were produced in 2002 in the 10 countries that are due to join the EU in May: the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, Slovakia, Malta, Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. This represented growth of 3% on the 89 films produced in 2001 and an increase of 37% on the 67 films produced in 2001.

The largest territory, Poland, produced the most, with 27 features or feature-length documentaries, followed by Hungary with 24 and the Czech Republic with 21. Slovenia has seen rapid growth, moving up from three films in 1997 to 10 in 2002. In the smaller states like Slovakia and Cyprus, co-production is the norm.

The report found that in Hungary there was a total of $10.6 million in public funds available in 2002, a 64% increase on the estimated $6.5 million up for grabs in 2001. Levels in places like the Czech Republic and Poland are about a quarter of that level, but pubcasters in several countries often contribute to homemade projects on top of that, and this is money that usually comes indirectly from the state.

In many countries, market share for national films was down in 2002 compared to 2001. Homegrown Czech films were down to 13% of cinema admissions, compared to an average of about 20% since 1996. Polish films were down to 17.1% from 41.6% in 2001, although success of co-prod “The Pianist” meant that share of European movies was up to 17%.

As for cinema attendance, the Czech Republic showed a 3.2% increase, but Poland and Hungary registered falls of 1.1% and 4.6%, respectively. Overall, there were 62.27 million registered cinema admissions in the 10 new EU member states in 2002, a 0.7% increase on 2001.

The report also found that few features from central and eastern Europe were finding their way into existing EU markets such as France, Germany and the U.K.

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