FNE at TIFF: Romanian award-winning films show box office strength

By Iulia Blaga
    If I Want To Whistle, I Whistle (www.vreausafluier.ro) by Florin Şerban is leading a revival of Romanian film at the local box-office. The feature, awarded at the Berlinale 2010, comes in 15th place in the 2010 box office and is in second place among all Romanian films screened in local cinemas over the last seven years.
    The producer Strada Film (www.stradafilm.ro) used an aggresive marketing campaign before and after Berlin, but the outcome was also influenced by the subject - a contemporary drama of a young prisoner - and the fact that the premiere came soon after the Berlinale.

    If I Want To Whistle, I Whistle sold 52.422 tickets in 9 weeks. Another local film, the popular comedy Poker by Sergiu Nicolaescu comes in 28th in the 2010 chart with 23,065 tickets sold in seven weeks. Last year, Tales of the Golden Age - Comrades, Life Is Beautiful! by Cristian Mungiu, Ioana Uricaru, Hanno Hofer, Constantin Popescu and Răzvan Mărculescu (www.amintiridinepocadeaur.ro) was the most popular Romanian film with 26,520 tickets sold in 11 weeks, while in 2008 The Survivor, an action film made by the popular Sergiu Nicolaescu, led the local box office with 26,772 tickets sold. After receiving the Palm d'Or in Cannes, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days sold 70,953 tickets in 2007 because the producer and director Cristian Mungiu, aside from the gala premieres in some major cities, put up a kino caravan wich travelled with the team to 15 towns with no cinemas. The Death of Mr Lăzărescu, by Cristi Puiu, sold 25,222 tickets locally in 2005.

    However, no prize winner has overcome the success of the popular comedy Garcea şi oltenii wich topped the premiere box office in 2001 with 251,891 tickets sold -- some 61,000 tickets more than The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

    Winning the local audience is a challenge for Romanian filmmakers. One of the best solutions is to have not just an opening gala in Bucharest, but additional galas in other main cities, where the team can go and meet the audience. The example, set by Cristian Mungiu with 432, was followed by others including Bobby Păunescu. Last year he travelled with Francesca, his first feature, on a tour throughout the country. That helped sell 16,052 tickets. The team of If I Want to Whistle... also spent some time on tour, showing the film even in prisons.