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Turkish audiences found respite from harsh everyday political realities at the movies, but only if they were Turkish blockbusters. In 2016, admissions for U.S. indies fell 3% to slightly over 59 million, according to comScore.

“The audience has dropped, and only Turkish blockbusters and American movies with a Marvel superhero still work,” says Pamir Demirtas, who heads Pinema, top distributor of American indies.

The year’s top title is thriller “The Mountain II” (Dag II), about a Turkish special forces squad on a mission in contempo Iraq.
“The Mountain II” was released by Mars Cinema Group, the local behemoth comprising Turkey’s top exhibition chain as well as production and distribution arms, which was bought in April by South Korea’s CJ-CGV.

Around the time of that purchase, Mars Group came under fire when a docu about its alleged monopolistic practices, titled “Only Blockbusters Left Alive,” opened the Istanbul Film Festival. Mars in 2016 released three of the country’s top five draws, all of which were Turkish.

“In 2016 [U.S.] movies became more expensive and expectations were higher; but all the incidents affected [cinemagoing in] the region,” Demirtas says.
Last year, Pinema became ever more crucial to ensuring the country’s cinematic diversity and, in turn, to driving admissions in the market. Meanwhile, with the dollar getting stronger against the Turkish lira, the cost of minimum guarantees is rising.

But despite all these drawbacks, Pinema did decent biz last year with “The Hateful Eight,” “London Has Fallen,” “The BFG,” “The Fifth Wave,” and several local pics including drama “Somuncu Baba: Askin Sirri,” based on the real life of Sufi dervish Somuncu Baba, known as a Muslim saint.