Dutch and Gallic fare tops at box office

BRUSSELS — Local product and arthouse movies with crossover appeal are providing stiff competition for Hollywood fare in the Benelux countries. But other offerings are now struggling.

“Midsize films that are neither fish nor foul are being squeezed out,” says Alexander Vandeputte, Benelux Film Distributors’ co-CEO.

In Holland, no local film in 2008 has matched last year’s romantic comedy hit “Alles is liefde” ($12.6 million via A-Film). Yet a strong offer of Dutch comedies, thrillers and kidpics continues.

“It’s remarkable,” says Eric Engelen, co-head of acquisitions at A-Film. “Every three weeks there is at least one local film that is topping the box office.”

Independent Films leads the 2008 indie B.O., riding a mix of local fare and U.S. imports. With a cume of $20.2 million to Sept. 10, it’s in the same league as U.S. studio arms.

In Belgium, micro-indie Alternative Films is having a boffo year with French hit “Welcome to the Sticks,” “Asterix at the Olympic Games” and “Into the Wild.”

French-speaking Belgians still prefer Gallic fare to local product, while the Flemish are loyal to home-grown talent. Top Flemish earners such as “Moscow, Belgium” have come through KFD, distrib arm of multiplex chain Kinepolis, which also releases U.S. titles acquired by Dutch partners RCV and A-Film.

Main concern for buyers attending AFM is pic prices. “Even with the weak dollar, big-budget films require minimum guarantees that are extremely high risk to independent companies,” explains Paradiso topper Martien Uyttendaele.

2008 B.O.

BELGIUM: $45 million (to July 1)

NETHERLANDS: $150 million (to Sept. 10)

Top title

BELGIUM: “Welcome to the Sticks” ($8.4 million)

NETHERLANDS: “Mamma Mia! The Movie” ($6.7 million)

Recent pickups

“My Queen Caro” (Kinepolis)

“Stella” (Benelux Film Distributors)

“Synecdoche, New York” (Paradiso)

“The Baader Meinhof Complex” (A-Film)