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German producers downcast

Survey reveals biz mood is pessimistic

BERLIN — Things are looking gloomy for German producers. A survey published Thursday by the German Producers Alliance paints an ominous picture for the local industry, with considerably more filmmakers now expecting revenue declines and lost jobs compared with a year ago.

The Producers Alliance surveyed its members, which comprise more than 180 German production companies working in film, animation, TV and advertising.

Alliance chairman Alexander Thies sought to put an upbeat spin on the figures. “The positive: We made it through the crisis and most of us are still here. We had fewer business closures than we feared a year ago and a significant number of producers are optimistic about the future.”

Nevertheless, 46% of those surveyed expect a decline in revenue this year, up from 37% in 2009, while only 38% expect revenue growth, down from 50% a year ago.

Reflecting the growing fear of faltering business, 40% of respondents expect job cuts compared with only 22% in 2009 and the share of businesses looking to hire new employees dropped from 33% to 20%. The share of companies that have seen their number of employees unchanged fell from 45% to 40%.

“While the curve is pointing downward, it’s not as steep as we feared last year,” said Thies. “Despite the obvious relief, it’s clear that the future is anything but certain for the majority of companies.”

The survey also showed that the percentage of companies who see their economic development as inadequate, poor or negative grew from 3% to 9%.

The report points to various factors for the worsening climate, including a serious legal row between Germany’s main film funder, the Federal Film Board (FFA), and leading exhibs over mandatory levies to finance the country’s film subsidy program. While cinema owners are legally forced to pay into the FFA pot, payments from TV broadcasters had until now been voluntary – something exhibs found unfair.

The dispute has threatened the FFA’s ability to grant much needed coin to producers and put a number of projects on hold. As a result, 86% of producers said they expect a decline in feature film production compared with 75% a year ago, while 11% said they would discontinue film production altogether.

Among TV producers, contractual conditions for commissioned productions with TV broadcasters remain a major point of contention.

Nearly 70% of respondents said “insufficient payment for requested services” was among their biggest problems and challenges.

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