Pope and laughter push Polish movies up charts

Local comedies hit home in Hungary, Czech Republic

Pics about the Pope and homegrown romantic comedies did boffo biz in Poland, while laffers lured the auds to theaters in Hungary and the Czech Republic in a strong year for local product at the central European box office.

This year was a good year for Polish pics on home turf. The 200,000 admissions mark was exceeded by seven Polish pics, which is a real achievement compared with previous years.

Romantic comedies proved particularly popular, with Ryszard Zatorski’s “Tylko mnie kochaj” cuming a spectacular 1.6 admissions, and Denis Delic’s “Ja wam pokaze” clocking up 1.2 admissions. “S@motnosc w sieci,” a meller by Witold Adamek, sold 500,000 tickets.

The spectacular success in Poland of biopics about the late pope, John Paul II, a national hero in the staunchly Catholic country, stood out. Not just one but two pics about the Polish-born pope topped Polish charts this year.

In March, the TVP co-production “John Paul II,” starring Jon Voight took top spot, and, in November, “Karol — the Pope, the Man” by Italian helmer Giacomo Battiato tapped into the Polish papal fixation.

In Hungary, too, national heroes proved a hit at the box office. The historic sports drama “Children of Glory” scored the best local perf of a Hungarian pic of all time by cuming $1.5 million in the first three weeks of its release. Produced by Andy Vajna, “Children of Glory” is set against the backdrop of the Hungarian revolution of 1956 and tells the story of the historic battle between the Hungarian and Soviet water polo teams at the 1956 summer Olympics.

Otherwise, as far as home grown pics were concerned, Hungarian auds went for laffers with “Just Sex and Nothing Else” being the most successful performer, cuming $1.73 million.

Next in line was “Glass Tiger 2” with a box office cume of $1.4 million, “One Skirt and a Pair of Trousers” with $1.2 million and “Young, Dumb and Full of Love,” which scored almost $600,000.

Local laffers also hit home with Czech auds. Karel Janak topped box office charts twice in 2006, both times with teenie laffers, “Raftaci” and “Ro(c)k podvrataku.”

Jan Hrebejk (“Up and Down”) directed the year’s most successful Czech film, emigration drama “Beauty in Trouble.” Although the pic only sold 250,000 tickets, a fraction of previous Czech box office successes such as Petr Zelenka’s “Wrong Side Up,” which sold over 1 million tickets, the Czech market share of homegrown pics overall remains at a healthy 25%.

In Romania, where a wave of young helmers such as Cristi Puiu and Corneliu Porumboiu have been causing a stir on the international fest circuit, local pics are still struggling to get bums on seats. “Love Sick,” the feature debut of helmer Tudor Giurgiu made it to No. 29 in the overall charts for the year with 22,000 admissions (in first place was “The Da Vinci Code with 140,000 admissions). However, considering that only six years ago, there was no Romanian film industry to speak of, the picture is not that bleak.

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Main story: Hollywood vs. home movies