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Czech industry lauds regional pics

Two local films contend for Karlovy Vary prize

Czech industryites at the Karlovy Vary fest say there are several reasons to celebrate local production this year. For one, the country has two contenders for the fest’s Crystal Globe prize.

Local pics’ share of the box office is up, too, with newly released figures from the Audio-Visual Producers Assn. showing that in the last year some 15% of the pics in theaters were Czech — and they won 40% of the aud coin. What’s more, seven of the top 10 grossers currently are Czech pics.

Those films, about 200 in release annually in the country, are admittedly competing for a smaller overall pie than last year, but, as APA’s Pavel Strnad points out, “If people aren’t going to films, it isn’t because they are bad — it’s because they are doing something else. There is a decline, but it applies to American films, too. You can’t blame Czech films.”

Strnad’s answer, aimed at local critics who say they’ve witnessed a decline in creative quality in local fare, came as part of a progress report on the state of both the local and in-bound foreign production sectors.

The latter, which has also been in decline, with $307 million in foreign coin in 2003 down to $130 million last year, is causing new pressure to pass an incentives deal to keep Western producers headed for Prague, rather than the increasingly busy studios of Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania.

The Czech Finance Ministry has been resisting a Hungary-style tax credit of 20% for foreigners, but the APA has recently found them more receptive to the idea of a production rebate, which would have the same effect.

This plan, already in effect in Germany, would require foreign production companies to document their spend here, then get a portion back in cash. It’s more palatable to the ruling conservative party in the Czech Republic, says Strnad, because it would not interfere with their tax reform efforts.

Meanwhile, progress is also expected soon in the creaking mechanism by which Czech films are funded.

The law governing the Czech Cinematography Fund was drafted in 1992 and is in drastic need of updating.

Though the fund is currently flush, with $18.3 million available, fueling a boom in local production, new rules could alter — and stabilize — its coin sources, say bizzers.

The new film fund bill is expected to go before the Czech Parliament in September, following ministry analysis.

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