German film funding in uproar

Subsidy program marred by legal framework

BERLIN — The German film industry could be facing a catastrophe if lawmakers don’t speed up a new legal framework for the country’s federal film subsidy program.

A federal court ruled last month that the levy industryites pay to the German Federal Film Board (FFA) is unconstitutional because theatrical exhibs and home entertainment distribs are legally required to pay while TV broadcasters’ contributions are voluntary.

With no new legal system in sight, the Berlin-based Alliance of German Producers Monday issued a warning that unless a solution is found, film production in Germany could drop by half this year and a slew of production companies may sink into bankruptcy.

This could also affect international productions. Among recent pics that have received FFA coin are Stephen Daldry’s Oscar-winning “The Reader” and Michael Hoffman’s upcoming Leo Tolstoy biopic “The Last Station,” starring Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer.

Before the court ruling, a number of exhibs had decided to pay the levy under caveat — a legal notice stipulating objections and blocking the FFA from spending the millions it receives until the matter is settled.

The producers’ alliance said more exhibs, distribs and possibly even TV broadcasters may do the same thing until new legislation is written.

If this happens, the FFA will be forced to cut its overall subsidy budget, currently around $90 million a year, which the producers’ alliance says would have “catastrophic effects on film production.”

Theatrical exhib body HDF Kino is set to meet today and expected to advise its members on any further action, while FFA officials will gather Friday to discuss the impending crisis and possibly rule on releasing emergency funds.

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