×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Karlovy Vary Fest Underlines Czech Republic’s Showbiz Connections

International Profile: Country’s production incentives have revived the film, TV biz

The showbiz infrastructure is well-developed in the Czech Republic, which has the highest GDP per capita of the former Soviet Bloc states. Facilities like Barrandov Studios and film school FAMU are providing a deep pool of technical and creative talent.

The country’s production incentives have revived the film and TV biz and brought in a steady flow of international productions, such as Scott Free’s Russia-set serial-killer tale “Child 44,” and Tim Robbins’ spy romance “City of Lies.”

“I’ve never seen (production) so full,” says Rick McCallum, who has made Prague his home after 20 years producing projects for George Lucas. There are nearly 50 film festivals, with Karlovy Vary (the 48th edition of which runs June 28-July 6) being the most prominent.

However, some elements of crony capitalism and corruption have taken root, and the country has been hit by the region-wide recession. This has led to a revival in the fortunes of the Communist Party, which got 20% backing in recent polls.

BIZ OPPORTUNITIES

The recently approved film law has buoyed the spirits of local producers. The cap on the 20% tax incentive was raised to $24.6 million a year, although most producers agree it needs to be at least double that amount. Most Czech films are co-produced with partners from elsewhere in the region. “We have to depend on the kindness of strangers,” McCallum says. But few Czech pics have had much success in foreign markets. One exception was animated Cold War-era crimer “Alois Nebel,” produced by Negativ. Big budget TV series that have shot in the Czech Republic include Tom Fontana’s Borgia and NBC’s “Crossing Lines.” Those shooting now include $30 million Danish historical epic “1864,” and the BBC’s swashbuckler “The Musketeers,” which have local producers Sirena Films and Czech Anglo Prods. attached, respectively.

LOGISTICS

Prague is easy for crews to maneuver in. It takes 30 minutes from the center of the city to Barrandov Studios. And public transportation — subway, tram or bus — is reliable. Outside the capital, the train system is good, but it’s probably better to hire a vehicle.

LOCAL LIFE

Prague is a beautiful, vibrant and bohemian city — it is in Bohemia, after all — with a variety of neighborhoods to explore if you’re on a break from work. Visit Zizkov for its nightlife, with some 300 bars, or stroll through Letna Park. Lunch at Cafe Louvre (a favorite of Kafka’s) or Cafe Savoy, with dinner at Kampa Park or Sansho. The city hosts contempo circus act La Putyka and a lively indie music scene, with acts like Zrni and Naceva. Chateau Mcely, a spa hotel in a 17th-century baroque mansion, is 50 minutes from Prague.

FILM BIZ

Top pics last year at the local box office: “Ice Age: Continental Drift” ($4 million), “Skyfall” ($2.8 million) and local romantic comedy “You Kiss Like a Devil” ($2.7 million), a sequel to 2009’s “You Kiss Like a God.” Other top romantic laffers were “Love Is Love” and “Sunday League,” a TV sitcom spinoff. Out of 261 films released last year, 49 were Czech, which took a combined 20% of the nation’s $63.6 million box office. The ’50s-set crimer “In the Shadow,” from helmer David Ondricek, took nine prizes at the national Czech Lions Awards. This year, Zdenek Troska’s rural-set laffer “Babovresky” has netted $4.2 million, driven by auds in the stix. The digitization of screens has enabled a wide release for indie pics, which helps maximize social media buzz. Upcoming Czech pics include “So Far So Good,” about two Czech brothers on the run from Soviet troops in the 1950s, produced by McCallum’s Film United; and Milan Cieslar’s romantic drama “Colette.”

TV INDUSTRY

Market leader is CME’s commercial net Nova, with 38% of the primetime, 15-54 audience; pubcaster Czech TV is next, with 26%, followed by MTG-backed private net Prima, with 24%. The pubcaster is a major backer of local films. Commercial net Petka shuttered in February after only four months on air, and regional web Metropol TV filed for bankruptcy in April. Pay TV penetration is weak. UPC is the top cabler, with 1.2 million customers. Comedy-sudser “Vypravej” (“Tell Me a Story”), which follows a Czech family through the 1970s and ’80s, was a surprise success. HBO miniseries “Burning Bush” from Agnieszka Holland, about the aftermath of Jan Palach’s self-immolation in Wenceslas Square, which started the Prague Spring, raised the bar for Czech-language TV drama.

Czech Republic at a Glance

OVERVIEW

Size: 30,450 sq. miles
Capital: Prague
Languages: Czech 95.4%

AUDIENCE DEMOS

Population: 10.5 million
Aged 0-24 years: 24.5%
Aged 25-54 years: 44%
Average age: 41.4

NOTABLE STATS

In a recent census, 89% of Czechs said they had no religion, or did not specify a faith.

DIGITAL DIGITS

Mobile phones: 13 million
Online users: 7.4 million
Landlines: 2.3 million

OUTSIDERS’ IMAGE

Known for: Franz Kafka, Antonin Dvorak, Milos Forman, Vaclav Havel, Good King Wenceslas

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Stray Dolls Movie

    Samuel Goldwyn Films Acquires Cynthia Nixon's Tribeca Player 'Stray Dolls' (EXCLUSIVE)

    “Stray Dolls,” a Tribeca Film Festival entry from up-and-coming director Sonejuhi Sinha, has sold North American distribution rights to Samuel Goldwyn Films. Eyeing an early 2020 release, the film stars breakout Geetanjali Thapa, Olivia DeJonge (Netflix’s “The Society”), Robert Aramayo (young Eddard Stark on “Game of Thrones”) and Cynthia Nixon. Thapa plays Riz, a former [...]

  • Mick Jagger, Donald Sutherland. Actors Mick

    'The Burnt Orange Heresy' With Mick Jagger, Donald Sutherland Sells Worldwide

    HanWay Films has closed out worldwide sales on “The Burnt Orange Heresy,” the art-heist film that screened in Venice and Toronto. The movie stars Mick Jagger, Claes Bang, and Donald Sutherland. It closed the Venice Film Festival. In addition to North America, where Giuseppe Capotondi’s film will open in spring 2020, SPC has acquired rights [...]

  • Between Worlds Nicolas Cage

    Nicolas Cage, Alex Wolff to Star in Pulse Films’ Truffle Hunter Movie ‘Pig’

    Nicolas Cage is a truffle hunter who wants his pig back in “Pig,” which started production Monday in Oregon. The film, which Michael Sarnoski will direct from his own script, will also star Alex Wolff (“Hereditary”). Pulse Films, BlockBox Entertainment, Valparaiso Pictures and Cage’s Saturn Pictures are producing in association with Escape Artists and Sweet [...]

  • Sid Haig Dies Devil's Rejects

    Sid Haig, Horror Actor in Rob Zombie Trilogy, Dies at 80

    Sid Haig, known for his role as Captain Spaulding in Rob Zombie’s “House of 1000 Corpses” trilogy, died Saturday. He was 80. His wife announced the news on Instagram. Haig had a fall several weeks ago and suffered serious breathing complications after arriving at the hospital. He died of a lung infection. “On Saturday, September [...]

  • France Boasts Europe's Highest Number of

    France Still Boasts Europe's Highest Number of Theater Screens Per Capita

    France, Europe’s No. 1 movie-going nation, still boasts the continent’s highest number of screens per capita, according to a new study conducted by the French National Film Board (CNC). As of last year, France had 2,040 theaters and 6,000 screens – 69 more screens than in 2017. It’s about one screen per 31 inhabitants. Out [...]

  • Arab Genre Film

    Arab Genre Films Get Boost From Beirut's Maskoon Lab (EXCLUSIVE)

    Just as Netflix tries to gain traction in the Middle East by backing local genre series, such as its first Arab original, “Jinn,” from Jordan, and Egypt’s upcoming “Paranormal,” Beirut’s Maskoon Fantastic Film Festival is launching the region’s first platform dedicated to genre films. Five Arabic-language projects, ranging from a zombie comedy to a supernatural [...]

  • Simon Yam in "Little Q"

    China Box Office: Hong Kong Dog Film 'Little Q' Leads the Pack

    As China gears up for a big political anniversary and national holiday, its box office has been dominated by innocuous animal films and local fare capable of keeping censors happy but unable to make that huge of a splash. None of the top four weekend titles has scored more than 7 out of 10 on [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content